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A baby melonhead has been adopted by a dolphin! - video

Scientists have observed an unusual and unprecedented situation: a common butlonos has taken care of a baby melonhead! This is the first known case of a common bottlenose adopting a calf of another species under natural conditions. Read on to find out more about this remarkable story that scientists have been observing and documenting for
Published: March 24, 2019 - 16:30
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 18:29
A baby melonhead has been adopted by a dolphin! – video

Scientists have observed an unusual and unprecedented situation: a common butlonos has taken care of a baby melonhead! This is the first known case of a common bottlenose adopting a calf of another species under natural conditions. Read on to find out more about this remarkable story that scientists have been observing and documenting for 3 years!

It all happened in the waters off the coast of French Polynesia, in the South Pacific Ocean. Researchers who observed the group of butlonos were extremely surprised when they realised that the animals belonged to completely separate species.

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According to Pamela Carzon, the researcher leading the project with the Marine Mammal Study Group, dolphins usually only have one calf at a time, so it is extremely rare for them to take another calf to raise. It is also highly unusual for a wild mammal to adopt the young of another species.

Carzon and her team collected photographic and video documentation of an unusual dolphin family. Material was collected both from land and from boats. The whole project was carried out as part of a long-term community study of about 30 bottlenose dolphins.

During this time, the melonhead was extremely rarely away from his new mother and siblings. Most of the time, all three were side by side. It also didn’t take long for the adopted dolphin to adjust to his new family and be accepted into the butlonid community.

The melonhead behaved exactly like the other bottlenose. He socialised with other young dolphins and accompanied them when they surfed and jumped over the waves.

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In a study published in the journal Ethology, the authors suggested that the inexperience and personality of the foster mother may have contributed to such an unusual adoption. They also found that the calf’s persistence in maintaining a relationship with its adoptive mother may have played an important role in the ultimate success of the adoption.

The mother and her adopted calf stayed together for almost three years. The two also stayed together after the biological calf disappeared for unknown reasons, at about one and a half years of age. The melonhead disappeared at about the time when butlonos wean their young.

Source: smithsonianmag.com

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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