This poignant footage captures a grieving dolphin struggling to swim beneath the burden of her dead calf.
Passengers aboard Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, in southern California, encountered the heart-breaking scenes when they came across a pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Pacific Ocean last month.
Slumped across the dorsal fin of the majestic creature is the lifeless form of a young dolphin.
“I believe this calf has been dead for many days, possibly weeks,” said Captain Dave Anderson.
“You can see the flesh is decaying. In my nearly twenty years on the water whale watching I have never seen this behaviour. Nor have I ever seen anything quite as moving as this mother who refuses to let go of her poor calf.”
A number of dolphins are seen swimming around the distressed female, as though “guarding” her precious cargo.
It is unusual for dolphins to swim with their dorsal fins above the water, suggesting that the animal is fruitlessly attempting to ensure that the dead calf can breathe. Over half of all bottlenose calves die from disease and predators before their second birthday.
One passenger said the tragic sight had been a "profound" one.
"The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession," he said.
"Humans and dolphins are not so different."Reuse content