The captain of a tourist boat that was traveling off the coast of Dana Point, Calif. was shocked to see a mother dolphin carrying her deceased offspring on her back in what appeared to be a mourning act.
Captain Dave Anderson, who has worked for 20 years on the ocean, said he had never seen anything like it.
The mother was carrying her dead calf on her back as other dolphins surrounded her.
It is not clear if the mother was trying to give her baby dolphin air or if she was doing it out of grief.
"In my nearly twenty years on the water whale watching I have never seen this behavior," he said.
"Nor have I ever seen anything quite as moving as this mother who refuses to let go of her poor calf. Did mom start off helping her weak, sick offspring swim to the surface to breathe for days till the tiny dolphin died? When will she give up on her calf? Will she continue carrying her deceased on her back until the carcass begins to disintegrate?"
He worries that the dolphin will carry the calf around endlessly.
Anderson said it served as a wake up call that dolphins and humans are not so different.
"The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession," a passenger said. "It was pretty profound for me to think about … emotions that animals feel."
This isn't the first time a mother dolphin was spotted grieving for her dead calf.
In China, people watched as a mother carried her deceased calf against the tide to bury it in deeper waters.
She also put the calf on her back, though it slipped from her grip five times. Each time it fell, she lifted the offspring back up and carried it.
What made this story even sadder is that the calf appeared to have been killed by the boat's propeller.
Dolphins are just one of the many animals that mourn the death of relatives. Whales, gorillas, chimps and elephants have been seen mourning their deceased infants.