Planet Earth

Why Did These Sperm Whales Adopt a Disfigured Dolphin?

The rare interspecies interaction reveals whale society is more sophisticated — and more playful — than previously thought.

Whale 1
(Credit: Discover/Kellie Jaeger)

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This story was originally published in our Sept/Oct 2022 issue as "A Pod's Bond." Click here to subscribe to read more stories like this one.


Legs trailing in the water, I gripped the side of the boat, alert for my cue. As we rose to the top of a swell, the skipper spotted something in the distance and killed the engine. “Go, go, go!”

I dropped with my buddy into the Atlantic Ocean, its floor thousands of feet below us. A moment later, the boat was gone. We were alone. The water was as clear as the air above us; I felt a sense of vertigo as I floated above the abyss. All I could do was wait and hope. Then a huge shape appeared on the edge of my vision against the blue, and another, and another. Gradually the shapes became more distinct as they headed straight at me. I hung in the water, electrified by the sight — the largest predators on the planet, the fearsome protagonist of perhaps the most famous seafaring novel of literary history, Moby Dick.

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