A group of sperm whales have apparently adopted a bottlenose dolphin with a spine deformity, swimming alongside him and at times nuzzling and rubbing up against him, at least temporarily.
Wilson and partner Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin made the discovery in 2011 while observing sperm whales about 15 to 20 kilometres off the island of Pico in the Azores. …
For one week, they captured stunning photographs of the rare sight, which is the first discovery of its kind for sperm whales. The squid-hunting creatures are not known for their gregariousness.
“Sperm whales have never been observed to interact with another species in a non-agonistic way; basically, that means in a friendly way,” said Wilson when reached by phone at his office in Berlin.
“Dolphins, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. They are extremely gregarious. They’re very, very social.”
The researchers were so surprised that at first they weren’t sure what they were witnessing. However, they noticed enough physical gestures initiated by both species to determine it was a social interaction.
“The touching of flutes and nuzzling with the rostrum, these are all extremely friendly, social gestures for cetaceans to do to one another,” he said.
Wilson, 32, was born and raised in Etobicoke and attended Guelph University and the University of Ottawa. His findings are set to be published in Aquatic Mammals. …