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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.

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A humpback whale pokes its head partway out of the water, a behavior called spyhopping
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Northern Resident orca, Fife, swimming at the surface
Breaching North Atlantic right whale

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