Dolphin calves left to fend for themselves stand little chance of surviving the perils of the wild - but fortunately, the ocean isn't always as unforgiving as it might seem. In an extremely rare show of empathy between marine mammals, wild bottlenose dolphin off the coast of New Zealand has been spotted playing ‘mom' to a helpless offspring that's of a type different from her own.
Marine experts say that the female dolphin, named Kiwi, is a regular visitor to the Bay of Islands, but she's recently been seen with an unlikely companion under her care - a baby common dolphin, dubbed Pee-wee. Bottlenose and common dolphins typically avoid one another at sea, which makes the apparent interspecies adoption all the more surprising.
"It's just so unusual," says local dolphin specialist Joanne Halliday, to the New Zealand Herald, describing reaction to the oddball family as "ecstatic."
While it's unclear how Pee-wee came to be orphaned, the calf looks to be well taken care of regardless. Kiwi appears to have taken on parenting duties full-time, and has even been observed nursing the calf with her own life-giving milk, suggesting a strong maternal bond has been formed.