Usually found in the frigid waters of the Arctic, it’s extremely rare for narwhals to travel as far south as the waters of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, and yet one particularly adventurous narwhal has done just that. In a video taken by the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM), a Quebec-based whale research nonprofit, the juvenile narwhal was spotted in Quebec’s Ungava Bay, 621 miles south of its usual habitat, and appeared to have been adopted by a pod of beluga whales.
The drone footage captured a group of nine or 10 belugas, and a single narwhal, swimming together. “It behaves like one of the boys,” Robert Michaud, GREMM’s president told CBC News. “They are in constant contact with each other.”
Researchers spotted the same narwhal on July 29th, 2016, among a pod of 60 to 80 belugas, then again in 2017, and three times already in 2018. They reported that the narwhal typically behaves exactly like the belugas, even blowing bubbles — doubtless trying its best to fit in.
While it’s not completely unheard of for young whales to venture out of their usual habitat, rarely are they so lucky to find friends so accepting. Most get too friendly with boats or humans, and become fatally injured in the process.
While narwhals and belugas belong to the same family, Monodontidae, they’re very different. Belugas prefer shallow, warm, coastal waters with salmon, while narwhals generally hunt deepwater fish and are more at home in colder waters covered in dense ice. Also, narwhals have huge tusks. They’re both, however, very social species. More than anything else, that’s probably the reason behind this unlikely friendship in Quebec.