LA
03/27/2013 08:19 pm ET

Mother Dolphin Carries Her Dead Calf On Dorsal Fin (VIDEO)

Tourists in search of a dolphin stampede or intimate whale encounter were instead exposed to a rare and tragic marine life tragedy Tuesday when their sight-seeing boat came across a dolphin funeral procession.

Guides aboard Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point, Calif. captured footage of a dolphin carrying a decayed calf on her dorsal fin. In the video, posted on YouTube Wednesday, the tour guide speculates that the dolphin is grieving the death of her calf, and that the surrounding dolphins are guarding the mother and child.

In the video's description on YouTube, Capt. Dave Anderson explained that because the calf was in a decayed state, it may have died days or even weeks earlier.

"In my nearly twenty years on the water whale watching I have never seen this behavior," he writes. "Nor have I ever seen anything quite as moving as this mother who refuses to let go of her poor calf." He continued to speculate about the calf's death:

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? This poor grieving mother dolphin takes us, without words, to a place where as one of our passengers said in the video "humans and dolphins are not so different."

Tony Green, a sight-seer on board, shared his thoughts on the sad sight with the filmmaker.

"The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession," said Green. "It was pretty profound for me to think about ... emotions that animals feel."

h/t LAist

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