The waters off Dana Point on Tuesday were the scene of what one boater described as a dolphin funeral procession.
The accompanying footage shows a bottlenose dolphin, presumably a mother, carrying her dead calf on her back, while other dolphins followed close by. (Cetaceans have been known to tote dead offspring in what appears to be mourning behavior, but the phenomenon is rarely witnessed.)
The macabre episode revealed that not every mammal sighting is a cause for celebration, and that dolphins, like people, experience the loss of young and deal with that loss in ways that are both sad and touching.
"I believe this calf has been dead for many days, possibly weeks," Capt. David Anderson states in his video description. "You can see the flesh is decaying. In my nearly twenty years on the water whale watching I have never seen this behavior. Nor have I ever seen anything quite as moving as this mother who refuses to let go of her poor calf."Said Tony Green, a passenger aboard the Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari vessel: "The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession and it was a pretty profound statement about the emotions that those animals feel and how much … alike we are."