Bottlenose Dolphin Makes Rare Interspecies Adoption

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Bottlenose dolphins underwater. A mom of this dolphin species has taken up the motherhood responsibilities for an orphaned common dolphin.
Borat Furlan/Getty Images

A rare adoption has taken place in New Zealand, where a bottlenose dolphin has taken up the rearing responsibilities for a common dolphin.

The New Zealand Herald reports that in the waters of Bay of Islands, a baby common dolphin was spotted nursing from its new mom from another species.

The baby, known locally as "Pee-Wee," is an orphaned calf. The mom, meanwhile, is known as "Kiwi" and lost her own calf five years ago, when she became stranded at the Kerikeri Inlet of Aroha Island while her poor young one was still out at sea.

Kiwi was ultimately rescued from the muddy shore and placed back in the water, but her baby was never seen again.

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There's no evidence that Kiwi has had another calf since the loss of her baby five years ago, yet Kiwi is now producing milk.

"There's so many things these guys are capable of doing. They may be able to switch on lactation on demand," marine mammal expert Jo Halliday told the New Zealand Herald.

Why the mother of one dolphin species would adopt the calf of another is not yet understood, though Halliday speculated the sheer intelligence of her species might incline her to come to the aid of a calf in trouble.

via New Zealand Herald