October 29, 2009--
Carrying the remains of a roughly 30-foot (9-meter) giant squid
in her jaws, a female sperm whale
, with a calf at her side, swims near the surface off Japan
's Bonin Islands (map)
in the northwestern Pacific. Taken on October 15, this and other "absolutely sensational" new pictures offer rare proof of the sperm whale's taste for giant squid, said giant squid expert Steve O'Shea of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
The pictures may also reveal that adult sperm whales, which grow up to 59 feet (18 meters) long, use pieces of their prizes to teach youngsters how to catch their own, O'Shea told National Geographic News.
The group of five adults and one calf kept diving deep in unison, photographer Tony Wu told the Daily Mail
. "It seemed as if the adult whales were trying to teach the baby to dive and also to eat squid," he said.
(Related: first pictures of live giant squid
Photograph by Tony Wu, Barcroft/Fame Pictures