interspecies whale adoptions

From: Phil Clapham (
Date: Mon Oct 15 2001 - 08:07:48 EDT


Yes, sadly usually a whale calf dies if its mother dies also; if the
calf is old enough to feed independently (around 6 months or so for most
species) then it may survive its mother's death.

Intra-species (same species) adoptions are not common. Basically it
comes down to the cold logic of genetics, which is that animals don't
want to put any effort into raising someone else's kid when that kid has
none of their genes to pass on. Fortunately, humans are an exception
(including me - my daughter's adopted!)


light connie wrote:
> Dear Mr. Clapham,
> Thank you for answering my email so
> quickily;So the remaining question is what happens to
> the whale baby if the mother is captured or dies? Does
> the baby die as well or will the species of it kind
> adopt it?Also does Scientist know why one species will
> adopt a different type of offspring while another will
> not?
> --- "Phillip J. Clapham" <>
> wrote:
> > Hi:
> > .
> > You asked whether one species of whale would adopt
> > the baby of another.
> > The answer is no. In the big baleen whales (like
> > blues, humpbacks etc)
> > there's no evidence that an orphaned calf would even
> > be adopted by another
> > whale of the same species.
> >
> >
> >
> >
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The Society for Marine Mammalogy will be holding its 14th Biennial
Conference from 28 November to 3 December 2001, in Vancouver, BC.  Visit
the conference Web site at for full details of
this important meeting.

Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Protected Species Branch Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.

tel. 508 495-2316 fax 508 495-2066 email:

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