Crew members from the Bay of Islands dolphin spotters discovered that a bottlenose dolphin has been caring for–and even nursing–a common dolphin calf since January.

Though interspecies adoption among dolphins is not totally unheard of, it is rare. To just the everyday ocean lover, all dolphins seem to “swim the same swim,” but this is actually not the case. Bottlenose dolphins, for example, like to independently hunt in estuaries for flounder. Common dolphins, on the other hand, prefer to work together and round up schools of mackerel for their dinner. These behaviors may not be so dramatically different; however, they can still create boundaries between species.


Luckily for the orphaned common dolphin, Pee-Wee, the bottlenose dolphin, Kiwi, didn’t let these differences stand in her way of saving a helpless calf!

The oddball pairing of cetaceans is thought to be the result of Kiwi losing her calf after being temporarily stranded in the Kerikeri Inlet. Kiwi’s calf has not been seen in five years, so it is believed that Kiwi took on to raising Pee-Wee out of a prematurely ended motherly instinct.

Marine mammal expert, Jo Halliday, believes that the highly social cetaceans simply would not want another dolphin to suffer.

Regardless of why Kiwi decided to care for Pee-Wee, the situation is rather odd in that Kiwi is still able to lactate and nurse her new calf. Crew members were able to snap a few photos of the calf suckling from her adopted mother.


Halliday explains, “There’s so many things these guys [dolphins] are capable of doing. They may be able to switch on lactation on demand.”

Halliday and her crew are excited to see how the interspecies relationship plays out in the future. Common dolphin calves grow faster and mature much earlier than those of bottlenose dolphins. If Pee-Wee adopts the bottlenose lifestyle, she may rely on Kiwi for another three to four years, giving dolphin lovers the chance to watch two different species coexist.

Want more adorable interspecies families? Check out this amazing photo set for more peculiar adoptions!

Image source: Clayoquot/Wikimedia Commons