After 3 years, they’re ready to make it official: this adorable group of marine buddies has staying power.
The Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), a non-profit focused on whale research and conservation has been monitoring the seemingly strange bonding, in which a group of young Beluga whales have adopted a narwhal that appears to have gotten lost after wandering into Canada’s St. Lawrence River.
"It behaves like it was one of the boys," said GREMM President and Scientific Director Robert Michaud. "They are in constant contact with each other."
Sometimes referred to as “the unicorns of the sea,” narwhals are famous for their “teeth,” a tusk that can grow up to eight feet long.
GREMM has been monitoring the group for three years via a drone and noticed them playing and traveling together. The two species are closely related genetically but Michaud says they have substantial differences, such as feeding habits and habitat preferences.
However, the narwhal is showing signs of behavioral adaptation, even blowing bubbles near the surface of the water, like its Beluga buddies.
Both species are also very social, which can sometimes be a problem. For example, Michaud said that other wandering narwhals have gotten into accidents, sometimes fatal, when they tried to befriend humans or boats.
"That little narwhal that made a similar trip was very lucky," he said. "Because he found almost normal buddies."
Narwhals: They’re just like us.
OK, not really. But the unusual bonding display is a nice change of pace in a news cycle that seems to exclusively focus on what separates all creatures and things from each other.
For their part, Belugas are highly regarded for their social and even compassionate nature. If that sounds like a stretch, consider this example of a Beluga showing unbelievable tolerance toward Justin Bieber:
Photo by Bob Couey/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images.
Maybe letting a lonely narwhal hang out with your boys isn't such a great sacrifice when you think of it that way.
It’s a point that Harvard researcher Martin Nweeia couldn’t help but notice, telling the CBC:
"I think it shows … the compassion and the openness of other species to welcome another member that may not look or act the same. And maybe that's a good lesson for everyone."