Sperm whales adopt lone dolphin with spinal deformity

May 13, 2013

ScienceNow is reporting that a group of marine biologists working in the Azorean archipelago, about 900 miles off the coast of Portugal, have discovered a group of sperm whales who appear to have taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin who has a rather serious spinal malformation.

Although it seems likely that he whales took the dolphin in because of it's deformity, it can not be proven. It could be that they enjoy the dolphin's presence, feel the need to protect the dolphin, or maybe just think it's a strange looking calf. All they do know is that the dolphin isn't there by chance and seems to be sticking around.

"It might be that this individual didn't fit in, so to speak, with its original group," said behavioral ecologist Alexander Wilson. "Or maybe it just couldn't keep up. For now, however, this will all have to remain speculative thinking."

Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin did not expect to find a mixed-species group when they set out to observe the sperm whales. Among ocean-dwelling mammals, dolphins are perhaps the most gregarious. They've been spotted traveling, foraging, and playing with a wide variety of other animals, including many whales. On the other hand, sperm whales had never been reported cozying up to another species.

Full Story: Science Magazine  | Photos: Credit: Alexander D. M. Wilson/Aquatic Mammals

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