Skip to content

Do whales and dolphins grieve for their dead?

Scientists have now observed seven species of whales and dolphins mourn their dead pod mates and relatives in their own ways. For the very first time, a team of researchers recently reported seeing dead calves or juveniles being carried by adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, orcas, Australian humpback dolphins and sperm whales, in some instances for a long time after the youngster had died.

Risso’s dolphins and short-finned pilot whales are also known to behave in similar ways. It is looking more and more likely that mourning behaviours such as these are common among long-lived mammals that live together in social groups in the sea or on land.

In the summer of 2018, Talhlequah (J35), a member of the endangered southern resident orca community living off the coast of Washington State, was observed pushing the body of her dead calf for over two weeks during which time she may have travelled up to 1,000 miles.

Amazing facts about whales and dolphins

Dive deeper into the world of whales and dolphins and learn more about their lives.

A humpback whale pokes its head partway out of the water, a behavior called spyhopping

Facts about whales

Amazing facts about whales, the largest mammals to live on Earth.

two dolphins diving down out of the water

Facts about dolphins

From the orca to the tiny vaquita, learn more about these creatures.

Northern Resident orca, Fife, swimming at the surface

Record breakers

Whales and dolphins hold some incredible records.

Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Brain power

Just how intelligent are whales and dolphins?

Make a difference

Join our team  - no matter which way you choose, your commitment helps whales, dolphins, and our shared planet.

Save the whales, save the world.

Humpback whale spyhop


Adopt a whale and help us protect these amazing creatures.

Bottlenose dolphin calf breaching with its whole body out of the water


You can join our team and help us save whales and dolphins

Breaching North Atlantic right whale


Your gifts help us take action for whales and dolphins.

Orca spyhop


Support WDC by shopping for yourself or a friend.