This mourning ritual is rarely seen and hardly ever captured on film. Onlookers said that the dolphin repeatedly lifted its head, carrying the child above the water as if to help the baby breathe. The mammal was also seen continually moving out to deeper water.
After examining photos taken by the tourists, researchers spotted a gash on the infant’s belly, leading them to believe the newborn died due to an injury from a boat propeller. Scientists say that this is not the first time they have seen a dolphin exhibit mourning behavior. On several other occasions the animal has been spotted showing distress over the death of a newborn, even staying with the baby for several days.
While experts can’t speak conclusively, they believe that this ritual shows that dolphins have some understanding of mortality and may even contemplate their own death.
Dolphins are already known as highly intelligent animals. Researchers have documented dolphins using language, tools, teamwork and exhibiting a social culture. This sad display is just further evidence for experts that dolphins are smarter and deeper animals than we may have expected.