Dolphins are incredible creatures, there is no denying it. Back in 2014, researchers in French Polynesia noted that there was a bottlenose dolphin caring for an unfamiliar-looking animal. Originally, researchers assumed that it was the dolphin’s baby, however, they soon realized they were mistaken. The mystery animal in question turned out to be a melon-headed whale. They came to that conclusion after noting the difference in the facial features of both creatures – the bottlenose mother had a long narrow beak, while the whale had a short and blunt snout.
“We were really excited to be able to witness such a rare phenomenon,” stated study lead author Pamela Carzon.
Carzon also served as the scientific leader of the Groupe d’Étude des Mammifères Marins (GEMM) de Polynésie, based out in Tiputa, French Polynesia.
Adoption within the animal kingdom is not as uncommon as one might assume. However, typically-speaking, most adoptions occur within related animals of the same species and genus. At the time, in 2006, the only interspecies adoption on record occurred when a group of capuchins caring for a baby marmoset.
The University of São Paulo primatologist Patrícia Izar observed the phenomenon and said, “At the time, we were really, really astonished.”
As researchers learned, it wasn’t easy integrating the whale into the family of bottlenose dolphins. The little melon-head had to get accustomed to bottlenose habits. Occasionally, the whale would even shove his adopted sibling out of the way in order to gain more attention from his adopted mother! Bit rude, there, buddy. The scientists also observed the dolphin nursing the whale, which to researchers meant that the dolphin was actually facilitating a bond. The whale eventually settled into the bottlenose way of life and would be seen playing with the other young dolphins of the group – leaping in and out of the water like the rest of them. How cute!
Scientists were incredibly amazed by the adoption and concluded that perhaps this particular bottlenose dolphin was just a very kind and tolerant creature. The dolphin had already displayed an acceptance for scuba divers – a trait that differentiated her from plenty of other bottlenose dolphins who typically show aggression towards other species sharing their space.
You can watch the video below:
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.