Photo Credit: Alexander D. M. Wilson/Aquatic Mammals
On this chilly January morning, how’s this for a heart-warming story?:
Biologists studying whales and dolphins in the North Atlantic have spotted some unusual behaviour from the mammals. According to the article published by Science magazine, a pod of sperm whales appear to have adopted a physically disabled adult bottlenose dolphin.
Behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krausehe speculate that the dolphin, who suffered from an apparent birth defect of a severly deformed, curved spine, was perhaps bullied by his own kind and rejected or abandoned because of his looks and his inability to keep up with the other dolphin’s faster swimming speeds. "Sometimes some individuals can be picked on," Wilson says. "It might be that this individual didn’t fit in, so to speak, with its original group."
The researchers observed the dolphin on several occasions interacting with a group of sperm whales, nuzzling and rubbing up against the whales. The sperm whales, a species which that, while social, has not previously been seen partaking in inter-species friendships, seemed to at least tolerate the dolphins affections and at times even reciprocated. "It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason," says Wilson. "They were being very sociable."
A disabled dolphin’bullied and rejected by own’finds acceptance and companionship with a group of open-minded whales? If that’s not a metaphor for disabled-rights straight from the animal-kingdom, I don’t know what is. Grist.com, who also reported on the story, put it best: "Somebody give this dolphin a cute name and sell the story rights to Disney STAT."