New Zealand researchers from the Far Out Ocean Research Collective have been taken by surprise to notice a baby pilot whale in the company of a bottlenose dolphin. The only explanation the marine experts have is that the tiny whale was adopted by the caring dolphin, after it lost its mother. Although a scenario like that seems almost impossible, this is not the first time a dolphin stepped up to care for another species.
The marine explorers at the Far Out Ocean, Paihia, New Zealand, shared a photo of the two spending time together like they were family. The bottlenose dolphin – a friendly species by nature – was taking care by the young whale just like it was her own baby. The researchers reports indicate that the dolphin became the whale’s adoptive mom for nearly a month.
“An interesting observation of an adult oceanic bottlenose dolphin with a newborn long-finned pilot whale off north-eastern New Zealand,” the group wrote on Facebook. “Earlier in the day, the dolphin was part of a mixed-species group of false killer whales, pilot whales, and oceanic bottlenose dolphins.”
Although such a behavior usually defies human explanation, the researchers still believe there might be a reason behind the dolphin’s decision to look after the lonely pilot whale.
It could be a misguided motherly instinct, or she lost her own calf,” said the marine researcher Jochen Zaeschmar. “Pilot whales spend seven years with their calves. There is a good chance it will eventually join another pod of pilot whales as they often cross paths.”
The beautiful relationship between the dolphin and the newborn whale baffled everyone at the Far Out Ocean. Nevertheless, they will continue to observe this unlikely bond, and to make sure they will both thrive.
“We are hoping to re-encounter her to monitor this interesting phenomenon,” the organization said. “Adopting a species that is larger than them is pretty rare. Once the whale begins to expand, it will be intriguing to discover how they are connected.”
Watch a bottlenose dolphin adopting a baby whale in the video below (not related to the story)!