While exploring the Californian coastline on a recent whale-watching expedition, a lucky group of tourists witnessed something pretty special: a false killer whale gave birth just metres away from their boat!

The rarely seen birth took place off Dana Point in southern California, and was filmed by a tourist aboard a boat owned by Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari.

The calf emerged just metres away, and stunned onlookers watched as the mother immediately pushed the newborn to the surface so it could take its first breath. Shortly after, the rest of the 40-strong pod took turns nudging the baby upwards until it got the hang of swimming on its own.

“What a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see!" company owner Dave Anderson said in a statement. "In over 20 years on the water, I have never seen anything like that ... And I know of no one who has ever seen a wild Pseudorca birth!”

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), large members of the oceanic dolphin family, are a rare sight off California's coast, preferring to stick to warmer waters. Females typically give birth to only one calf every six to seven years, and the animals don't reach sexual maturity until 12 years of age. This makes the species particularly susceptible to pressure from human activities, but because the cetaceans spend most of their lives in deep water, little is known about their global strongholds.


Top header image: Wikimedia Commons