Researchers have spotted a bottlenose dolphin which may have adopted a melon-headed baby whale. In 2014, a team of researchers observed a bottlenose mother who was caring for her biological calf and another one which appeared to look a little strange, as bottlenose dolphins are known for their slender beaks but the second calf had a beak which was considerably shorter and blunt.
That trait sparked the interest of the researchers, and they decided to study the fascinating trio, which was swimming in the coastal waters close to French Polynesia. The scientists were surprised when they discovered that the orphan calf was a melon-headed whale. The trio was fascinating from two different points of view as dolphin mothers tend to care for a single infant at a time. The adoptive whale began to socialize with other young dolphins and regularly participated in play activities like surfing and leaping into waves.
Bottlenose Dolphin Adopted A Baby Whale
Within the study, the researchers argue that the young foster mother was able to adopt the baby because she was inexperienced but featured strong maternal instinct. The baby whale was also determined to interact with the adoptive mother quite open, a tendency which may have played a substantial role in the success of the adoption process. After three years, the adoptive calf led the mother during what is the regular period for weaning.
Their bond was strong as they remained together after the biological calf disappeared when it was around the age of one-and-a-half years. It is essential to keep in mind the fact that adoption is rare in the case of the wild mammals, and in most cases, it takes when related members of the same species are involved. The only similar situation when an adopted orphan was from a different species and genus was explored in 2006 when a team of researchers observed a group of capuchins which adopted a baby marmoset.
Bo has over six years experience as a teacher, advocate and speaker. He has a B.S. from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Human rights from Harvard University Graduate School.