DOMA and the Dolphin

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes we are born into our families and sometimes we choose them.

In honor of bringing attention to the Supreme Court hearing arguments about the legality of California’s Proposition 8, and The Defense of Marriage Act, I wanted to draw your attention to an unlikely family.

A bottle nose dolphin with a deformed curving spine has been accepted in a pod of Sperm Whales.

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Interspecies hanging out is not unheard of..especially for land animals.  The hanging out is generally temporary and it happens because it benefits both parties *usually in protecting against predators*.  But this kind of acceptance of a dolphin into a pod of Sperm whales is unheard of….until now. Sperm whales are not known for forging bonds with other species (unlike cheetahs and dogs).

There’s a lot of guess work about why this is so.  The whales are obviously larger and slower moving, and the dolphin may have joined up with them because he couldn’t keep up with his pod.  Or for a session of “bow riding” (something people who have been on boats know that dolphins do…), but why the dolphin decided to stay or why they let him, we won’t really know.  (Because as my vet said about cats “we don’t really know what’s going on in their heads”).

But this dolphin stayed, and they let him hang out with them.  He doesn’t dive as deep, but the arrangement works out well, as the calves in the group don’t dive deep either, and stay shallower in the ocean with an adult whale babysitter.  This is one theory.  Perhaps they viewed him as nonthreatening, so they disregarded him and let him stay.  Just another theory.  But they let him stay nonetheless.

So back to Prop 8 and DOMA…families come in different shapes and sizes.  Sometimes they are blood, and sometimes they are chosen. But families are important, and love is important, and whatever shape that love takes, let’s treat it with respect, because we need each other to survive and thrive.



Read about this story on National Geographic, where scientists observed and speculated on this pod.

A little history on Prop 8 in California, from the LA Times. 

And here’s a brief post on the Defense of Marriage Act.

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