Photographer Jess Woling captured an unusual pair – a southern right whale and a humpback calf. Researchers believe that an adult could have adopted a calf that lost its parents.
Cathy Fanney, of the Australian Little White Whale Project, was surprised to see the footage. The woman has long studied the behavior of southern right whales, but has never seen them accept young of other species.
“I have written to everyone I know,” Fanny said. “I have friends who are interested in whales, who have a lot more experience than me, and they were all very surprised as well.”
Fanney believes that an adult whale can be a foster parent for a young humpback whale.
“I think it certainly could be an adoption,” Fanney says. She added that the behavior of the adult and calf in the video is almost identical to that of the mother and calf.
Eric Hoyt, a whale and dolphin researcher, confirmed that this occurs in wildlife. He gives an example from his own practice, in which killer whales adopted orphaned cubs from other packs.