Adoption is uncommon among wild mammals, with most cases taking place between the same or related species. But an orphan melon-head whale calf is making headlines after it was adopted by a bottlenose dolphin and stayed for a period longer than her biological offspring. National Geographic released the first-ever recorded footage of the bottlenose dolphin’s unusual adoption.
Researchers in French Polynesia spotted the bottlenose dolphin in 2014, nursing an unusual looking calf and started keeping track of them. The unique case is only the second example of a documented cross-genus adoption in wild animals, reported Sciencealert.
Dolphin mom adopts whale calf, the first known case of a wild bottlenose mom adopting a calf of another species, as reported in a new study. The orphaned calf even learned to act like a bottlenose dolphin, gaining acceptance into the community ❤️ https://t.co/Gk9p7qbBiU pic.twitter.com/8bEblz2nFW
— Ajit Johnson (@ajitjohnson_n) August 1, 2019
Though female bottlenose dolphins are known for “stealing” babies, this is a unique case given the dolphin had its own offspring. Research into cross-genus adoptions in delphinids suggested that the foster mother’s inexperience and personality may have contributed to this unusual adoption.
According to the video by National Geographic, the orphan calf has even learned behaviours specific to dolphins during the time it spent with them, including surfing.