Primal instinct dictates that life’s purpose for all animals, including humans, is to transfer their genes and expand their species’ population. With this fact in mind, adoption doesn’t really have a place in evolution, as it uses up resources caring for someone else’s offspring and nixes the guarantee that the species will expand into future generations. However, there are multiple documented cases of adoption throughout the animal kingdom. For example, recent drone footage has surfaced revealing a young male narwhal swimming under the protection of a pod of beluga whales, over 1,000 km south of his usual habitat in the St. Lawrence River. (Please watch the drone footage. It’s every heartwarming Christmas movie lovers’ dream.)
This particular narwhal has been documented with the same pod for three years in a row. The Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), a non-profit group dedicated to whale research, has studied the belugas’ interactions with the narwhal, and have confirmed that they are constantly in contact with and playing with each other. The narwhal’s behaviour is nearly identical to that of the belugas, even occasionally blowing bubbles with the rest of the beluga juveniles, leading researchers to believe that he may have found a new home. Unfortunately, the GREMM researchers have yet to name the narwhal as they are not sure how long he will be staying with the pod.
Juvenile whales tend to be curious and friendly; some even attempt to befriend boats and humans, and are fatally injured by propellers. Luckily, this juvenile found refuge with the right companions. Young whales periodically stray from home; however, an Arctic marine mammal expert from the University of Washington said she’s surprised that a narwhal has been spotted so far south, and interacting so closely with belugas. Even though belugas and narwhals share habitat in multiple regions of the Arctic, they are usually in different locations at different times. Narwhals prefer areas with denser ice during the winter, and tend to hunt in deeper waters for food. Belugas are more comfortable swimming closer to the surface in areas with less ice cover. While they have varying habits, the two species share some similarities.
Very little is known about the social structure of belugas and narwhals, but one fact that is known is that they are both extremely social species. Given their sense of community and social behaviour, some researchers believe they would be equally as capable of compassion and caring for another species. The ability of a community to welcome a member of a different species, with different behaviour, appearance, and genetic background, is something everyone can learn from.
What did you do this holiday season to create a sense of community and compassion?