These Photos Of A Whale Nursing Her Calf Show The Magic Of Motherhood
There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love, and when it comes to ocean animals, marine mammal moms are some of the most loving moms in the underwater world. For marine mammals, the relationship between mother and child is one of the most vital and important factors of survival. Just like humans, marine mammals are warm-ʙʟᴏᴏᴅᴇᴅ animals that breathe air through their lungs, give birth to live young, and nurse their babies with milk produced by the mother.
Thanks to the images of photographer Mike Korostelev, we were able to see the intimate moment when a baby whale feeds from its mother, who expels its milk into the ocean. Did you ever imagine it would be like this? The power of motherhood is found in all species, and in all of them we can admire the ways in which they take care of their young, especially when it comes to breastfeeding, an act of pure love that is experienced differently by each living being. In this case, a photographer managed to ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇ the incredible images of a huge sperm whale feeding its calf underwater and although we are talking about a natural and very common process, few imagined that this was the way a whale calf was fed. Photographer Mike Korostelev, 38, from Moscow, was in the Indian Ocean when he ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇd the special encounter with the whales, where you can appreciate the particular way in which this mother whale nursed her calf in the water.
Found in almost every marine ecosystem around the globe, marine mammals are a diverse group of animals with unique physical characteristics that allow them to thrive in a myriad of different ocean conditions. These underwater mothers face challenges that aren’t present on land, and getting their young successfully though the early years of life is truly an incredible accomplishment. Many marine mammal moms migrate long distances seasonally, dive to great depths for food, and are faced with human-caused ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀs like accidental ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇ and entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, underwater noise, and ᴘᴏʟʟᴜᴛɪᴏɴ. While many protections for marine mammals exist globally, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States, many marine mammal species are still considered ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ. Marine mammal moms and babies range in size from small sea lion pups to the largest animal that has ever lived – the blue whale. Many of these marine mammals adhere to complex social systems – including the dynamic relationship and bond formed between mom and baby. As you can see in the images, the baby whale approaches the mother who expels the milk to the outside and you can see how it “floats” in the water while the baby manages to suckle its food.
The photographer, faced with such a spectacle commented that “it was a great honor for me to be there and so close to that intimate moment in the lives of the whales”. Sperm whale mothers have their nipples inverted, so when the calf is ready to feed, they dive under their mother and push the mammary glands. Once stimulated by the calf, the mother’s nipples come out and the milk is released into the water. The baby then feeds on the milk directly from the water, i.e. it does not nurse directly from the whale but takes the milk from the water. In addition, researchers suggest that sperm whales, in particular, feed on milk in this way because their mouths are not shaped conveniently to withstand suction, so they naturally choose to drink the milk suspended in the water. All species have different ways of breastfeeding and they are all equally special.