Bottlenose dolphins are extremely devoted mothers, protecting and taking care of their calves for almost six years. Needless to say, the bottlenose dolphins moms are raising only one calf at a time.
Therefore, when a group of researchers spotted a dolphin mom with two babies, they knew is an unprecedented event. It happened off the coast of Rangiroa Atoll in French Polynesia. But the most incredible part is that one of the calves proved to be from a different species. Since there are no related adoption cases among wild mammals, the marine researchers got totally baffled by the unique moment.
“We were really excited to be able to witness such a rare phenomenon,” Pamela Carzon, scientific leader of the Groupe d’Étude des Mammifères Marins (GEMM) de Polynésie told the National Geographic. “At the time, we were really, really astonished.”
This is the first known case of a wild bottlenose mom adopting a calf of another species https://t.co/kvHzT4qnvO
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) August 1, 2019
In this very unique case, the mother dolphin adopted a whale calf, despite she was already having a (presumably) biological daughter. According to Pamela Carzon and her team, who have studied the unusual family, the dolphin mom and whale calf stayed together for almost four years, while her biological calf disappeared after one year and a half, for unknown reasons. However, even now it is hard to explain the female behavior. The researcher team estimate the whale baby was around a month old when got addopted.
“Most likely, it was just a perfect moment for this calf to come along, when [the mother] was at a very receptive period to forming those bonds with her own offspring,” says Kirsty MacLeod, a behavioral ecologist at Lund University in Sweden. “And it led to this slightly wacky situation,”he added.
“It is very difficult to explain such behavior, especially since we have no information on how the melon-headed whale newborn was separated from his natural mother,” Carzon said.