We are told that the whale even acts like a dolphin:
Now, new research has revealed the first known case of a wild bottlenose mom adopting a calf of another species.
In 2014, researchers spotted a bottlenose mother caring for an unusual-looking male calf, along with what was presumed to be her biological calf, in coastal waters off French Polynesia.
While bottlenose dolphins have slender beaks, the mysterious one-month-old’s beak was short and blunt. Eventually, the scientists identified the orphan as a melon-headed whale—an entirely different species and genus of dolphin.Erica Tennenhouse, “Dolphin mom adopts whale calf—a first” at National Geographic
Various speculations are offered as to why the dolphin cared for a baby that wasn’t a relative.
Some speculate that either the dolphin is forced to behave that way by hormones or there must be something in it for her. More plausibly, “Personality could have been another driving factor, as this particular dolphin was already well known for her tolerance of scuba divers in the area. Her easygoing attitude may be what kept her from displaying typical bottlenose aggression toward non-offspring.”
In which case, she was simply doing what was normal for herself. People anxious to cram all animal behavior into a Darwinian mold neglect the fact that temperaments among animals differ greatly. If we observe animal behavior long enough, we will surely see many departures from what is supposed to happen according to the theory. The animal does not actually know the theory; she does what occurs to her at the time and her temperament is bound to play a role.
We are also informed that adoption is more common in domestic animals (though the article to which we are directed doesn’t really say why).
Some thoughts: Adoption of all kinds of offspring is comparatively common among cats. Ducklings, for example:
Curiously, tomcats may look after kittens too, so it can’t all be hormones:
Possibly, when the tomcat sees the kittens, he behaves the way he was treated when he was a kitten. He really doesn’t have any other ideas about how to treat kittens nicely.
Cats adopt puppies. One interesting feature is that, when cats adopt puppies, the puppies can be difficult to raise with kittens. Kittens are territorial about nipples and thus are not very combative at feeding time. But, we are told, puppies fight for dominance:
Domestic animals maybe more inclined to adopt at random if they don’t experience food shortages or danger. But then, as Australian philosopher David Stove pointed out in Darwinian Fairytales many life forms don’t usually experience food shortages. Many don’t experience dangers they can do much about. In that case, we should not be surprised if individual temperament accounts for the behavior rather than some calculus around self-interest or natural selection.
See also: Animal minds: In search of the minimal self
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