Dolphin Adopts Whale Calf And Mothers It

New Zealand-based Far Out Ocean Research Collective made an incredible discovery along the Bay of Islands in Northern New Zealand.

It was a bottlenose dolphin and a baby pilot whale. But what made the discovery so amazing as well as quite heartwarming was the fact that the dolphin had adopted the little baby whale.

The researchers had observed the pair in the Bay of Islands over the course of five weeks and documented them on two different occasions, sharing the observation to Facebook.

Photo: Facebook/Far Out Ocean Research Collective
Photo: Facebook/Far Out Ocean Research Collective

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While it was very sweet to see, it wasn’t unheard of for dolphins to sometimes adopt orphans of species. They said in the post, ” Bottlenose dolphins are known to occasionally acquire calves of other species but the reasons behind this are still not fully understood.”

However, it was rare for such a size difference to occur. While bottlenose dolphins can be pretty sizable on their own and weigh in at 300 kilograms, that is nothing compared to pilot whales who can reach up to two tons.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As for the dolphin’s actions, researcher Jochen Zaeschmar gave a few likely explanations for the adoption and stated, “She might have lost her own calf,” according to

The Far Out Ocean Research Collective further noted in a comment on their Facebook post that “it’s hard to say really. Presumably bottlenose dolphins acquire the calves of others out of some misplaced mothering instinct but there is not much known about the reasons.”

According to The Independent, back in 2019, scientists in French Polynesia noted that a bottlenose dolphin had adopted a melon-headed whale calf, and the dolphin cared for the whale for three years.

Photo: Facebook/Far Out Ocean Research Collective

While there are many scientists that speculate it has something to do with the maternal instinct, they can’t be completely sure.

However, the researchers that observed the case in French Polynesia did speculate in their paper that the actions of the dolphin could just simply be a part of the adoptive mother’s “personality.”

Whatever it might be that caused these pairings, one thing was found to be consistent. The dolphin moms and whale calves formed a bond that typically lasted through the weening stage, after which the whale was then free to go off and survive on their own.

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