Babysitting whales look after calves while mums go snacking

June 1st, 2009 - 12:30 pm ICT by ANI  

University of Massachusetts London, June 1 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have discovered that there are babysitters in whale populations as well, which look after the young ones of mother whales while they go hunt for food.

According to a report in New Scientist, Shane Gero of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and colleagues tracked two populations of sperm whales in the Caribbean and Sargasso seas to see what happened when mother whales dived for food.

The Sargasso mothers formed a babysitting circle, taking it in turns to watch over other calves and go hunting themselves.

The babysitters even allowed the other mothers’ calves to nurse if they were hungry.

The smaller Caribbean population had fewer mothers, so calves were left with a close female relative instead.

The research said that it makes sound evolutionary sense for females to help ensure the survival of their young relatives, and for mothers to babysit in return for their own calf’s protection.

However, there may be another reason the practice has arisen - a group that protects each other’s infants will grow larger, making it safer for all members.

“Among sperm whales, having extra eyes in a group to look out for killer whales is in everyone’s interest since group members are not easily replaced,” said Richard Connor, an expert in cetacean behaviour at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

“This benefit of having a larger group may also be a reason why adults readily look after one another’s young,” he said. (ANI)

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