Two Humpback Whales Were Photographed Having Sex for the First Time in History — and They Were Both Male

Photographers documented the surprising encounter while in a boat off of the Hawaiian island, Maui, in January 2022

<p>Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS</p> Male humpback whales in Maui

Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS

Male humpback whales in Maui

Two humpback whales were photographed having sex for the first time in their species' history — and both partners happened to be male.

The British news agency SWNS Media Group shared the news of the surprising encounter, which was first reported in a new study by a researcher at the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) on Tuesday. National Geographic, Live Science and The Guardian also reported on the study's findings.

The whales were seen copulating by photographers Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano on January 19, 2022. The pair documented the encounter from a safe distance while in a boat off the Hawaiian island of Maui.

As the two males approached their boat, the photographers saw that one of them "was visibly thin and covered in whale lice," which drew their attention because it was a sign of poor health, the SWNS report said.

<p>Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS</p> Two humpback whales observed copulating for the first time ever

Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS

Two humpback whales observed copulating for the first time ever

Related: Humpback Whale Jumps Out of Water Next to Tour Boat and Waves at Stunned Onlookers

A second, healthier whale kept approaching the first whale and "using its pectoral fins to hold the injured whale in place, and initiating shallow, brief penetrations," the report said.

The animals slowly circled the boat a few times, which allowed the photographs to be taken while Krannichfeld and Romano remained within a legal distance of the whales. It's illegal in Hawaii to swim with or approach humpback whales within 100 yards.

<p>Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS</p> Whales in Maui in January 2022

Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS

Whales in Maui in January 2022

The photographers recalled their encounter to Stephanie Stack, a whale researcher and the lead author on Tuesday's paper in Marine Animal Science.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

<p>Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS</p> A humpback whale in Maui

Lyle Krannichfeld/Brandi Romano/PWF/SWNS

A humpback whale in Maui

"What they stumbled upon was an unprecedented observation. The groundbreaking photographs captured by Krannichfeld and Romano provide an unparalleled glimpse into the private lives of these majestic marine mammals," the PWF said in a statement about Krannichfeld and Romano's photographs.

The organization continued:  "The health disparity between the two whales adds a layer of complexity to this unique observation. One whale’s poor condition, possibly caused by a ship strike, may have contributed to the observed behaviour," noting that this is the first time homosexual behavior has been documented in humpback whales, though it is common among cetaceans.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.