Scientists from the New England Aquarium had an “exciting” moment when they spotted a duo of endangered sea creatures during an aerial survey.
The team was exploring the Gulf of Maine on Nov. 5 when they caught a glimpse of Pediddle, a North Atlantic right whale, and her 10-month-old calf, the aquarium said in a Nov. 16 news release. The pair was skim feeding — which is a feeding method in which the whale opens its mouth, allowing small prey to swim through its baleen.
“It was incredible to watch these right whales feeding at the surface, especially Pediddle’s calf learning to feed alongside its mother,” Katherine McKenna, an assistant scientist who took the survey photos, said in the aquarium’s news release. “Right whale mothers and their calves are vital to the recovery of this critically endangered species, and it is important to ensure they are protected from threats throughout their range.”
Researchers said the creatures are making their annual migration from their summer feeding spots in New England and Canada to their warmer breeding grounds off the Florida and Georgia coasts.
Just hours after spotting the critically endangered duo, researchers caught a glimpse of another North Atlantic right whale: 49-year-old Mohawk, the aquarium said.
Mohawk was seen feeding among a group of basking sharks about 35 miles southeast of Portland, according to researchers.
“The Gulf of Maine is a very large area, and with so few right whales remaining, spotting them here can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack,” Orla O’Brien, an associate scientist with the aquarium, said in the release.
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered species of large whales in the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Experts believe there are fewer than 350 individuals left in the population, which has been experiencing an “unusual mortality event” since 2017.
In recent surveys, researchers with the aquarium have also identified humpback whales, fin whales, a blue whale and multiple species of dolphins, the aquarium said in its release.