Talk about a sweet deal. Not only did this lucky seal get the best seat around the metaphoric dinner table, but it was also treated to a fresh banquet unwittingly served by a pod of humpback whales busy on a fishing trip.
The fantastic image of the unusual twosome was captured by onlooker Robyn Malcolm during a whale-watching trip off the coast of Eden, Australia. But Malcolm tells the Sydney Morning Herald that the seal hadn’t actually been her focus as there was so much whale activity going on. It was not until Malcolm later sifted through the photos that she realized she had snapped the cheeky pinniped piggybacking on the unsuspecting cetacean.
According to New South Wales (NSW) National Parks and Wildlife whale expert Geoff Ross, such a pairing is thought to be extremely rare, although he recalls one previous example in which a seal hopped on a whale to escape a hungry orca.
“Humpbacks force fish into very tight bait balls, that means everyone can dart through the inside or the middle – anything that makes it easier to catch fish, seals will be involved,” said Ross.
While the seal may be the star of the moment, it was another of Malcolm’s images that particularly piqued Ross’s interest. In the middle of six or so whales, frantically encircling their fishy prey, were an abundance of bubbles.
“They look [like] they are bubble feeding, a very unique behaviour. We’ve not known humpbacks in NSW to feed like this, that’s the first time I’ve seen that happen in NSW waters.”
[H/T: Sydney Morning Herald]