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Video footage captures the moment a dolphin silently pushes her dead calf along the water's surface, having not eaten for more than five days.
The heartbreaking scenes were filmed near the estuary of Ria de Arousa in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia, with animal experts noting that the dolphin's silence is particularly harrowing as females usually make sounds to communicate with other dolphins
The clip was later shared on social media by the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute (BDRI), which said in its post: "These images speak for themselves of the enormous emotional complexity and strong social bonds that exist in cetaceans.
"The strong empathy of a mother for her dead calf contrasts with the image of 'aggressiveness and violence' that some media have tried to associate with these animals during recent days."
BDRI biologist Bruno Diaz said: "The mother had not eaten for five days while pushing her calf along.
"The video is overwhelming, mostly because of the silence. Females communicate a lot and make sounds to establish contact with other dolphins.
"However, she is not communicating with the calf, she is in continuous silence."
The dolphin's behaviour has led experts to believe that the mother was completely aware that her calf had died.
"Scientifically, it is very difficult to know what is going on inside an animal's head, but because of the silence, we believe it knows the baby is dead," Diaz said.
Diaz also believes the dolphin had not eaten for at least five days, as she pushed her calf's dead body along.
He said: "Dolphins have a large fat reserve after giving birth and it is possible she is getting by on that."
Diaz added: "Seeing these animals with such a strong attachment to a loved one is startling."
Hours later, a whale and her dead calf were also spotted on the other side of the estuary, near the small Spanish islands of Salvora and Ons.
According to the news site La Voz De Galicia, there have only been two previous reported incidents of mother dolphins showing such maternal care to a dead calf.
One took place in the Indian Ocean, while the other occurred in the Caribbean Sea.
However, Diaz said these both only lasted a few minutes, whereas the latest incident has now been documented for multiple days.
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