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Interspecies Whale Adoption

From LiveScience: An adult southern right whale was recently spotted swimming alongside a humpback whale calf. Experts think the larger whale may have adopted the juvenile after it lost its real mother. Click here to read the full article.

A southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) in Australia has been spotted with a juvenile humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). The article discusses the theory that this might be a rare example of interspecies adoption, in which the adult right whale has taken on a surrogate mother role for the unrelated youngster. However, there are other possibilities that may have brought these two whales together.

Additional possibilities:

  • The adult right whale might be recently bereaved (a female having lost her own calf). She could have heard the distress calls of the juvenile humpback and swum over to investigate.

  • The humpback whale could have parted with its mother and might be seeking out other whales to follow. If that's the case, the southern right whale is not technically playing a nurturing role and therefore would not matter if the adult whale is male or female.

Note: The drone footage does not confirm the gender of the adult whale. Researchers will keep an eye on the pair and will hopefully have more answers as time passes!

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