It's official: Humpback whales are the guardians of the seas.
A new video shows a humpback whale protecting marine biologist Nan Hauser from a nearby tiger shark. The whale pushes her away from the shark using its head, tucks her under its pectoral fin, and even lifts her out of the water. Meanwhile, another whale uses its tail to ward off the shark.
Hauser, the president and director of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, captured the video during a dive in the Cook Islands back in October.
"It's funny how the tables are turned here,” Hauser told The Mirror. “I've spent the past 28 years protecting whales, and in the moment, I didn't even realize that they were protecting me!"
Hauser said that she was so focused on the whale, she didn’t see the tiger shark lurking nearby.
It’s a well-noted phenomenon that humpback whales, often in duos, protect smaller animals who are hunted by marine predators like orca whales. In 2009, a humpback whale hoisted a seal out of the water to protect it from oncoming orcas. In 2012, a pod of humpback whales off the coast of Monterey Bay, California attempted to protect a gray whale calf from being hunted by orcas.
“Although this behavior is very interesting, I don’t find it completely surprising that a cetacean would intervene to help a member of another species,” Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project, told National Geographic. “These attributes are those of a species with a highly developed degree of general intelligence capable of empathic responses.”