Projecting human emotions onto scenes of animal life is a strong temptation, but one almost always ends up making blunders. In the last few days you may have come across the image of a snow-white beluga that seems to support and embrace a black fur seal. The yin and yang of oceanic life?
From the other side of the world. If it were authentic, the shot posted on Reddit would be wonderful. But as often happens, it is not. Beluga and sea lions live in diametrically opposed waters on the planet: as explained by marine biologist Robert Harcourt of Macquarie University (Australia) in Science Alert, the white cetaceans (Delphinapterus leucas) swim in arctic and subarctic waters, while the fur seals of the genus Arctocephalus, like the one that seems to recognize in the picture, live exclusively in the southern hemisphere.
We keep our distance. At most, in reality, next to the belugas it can happen to see a real seal (Phocidae family). The two animals can swim in the same seas or compete for the same food (like octopus and squid), but the interactions are limited to this: they would hardly embrace.
Juxtaposed to art. The only way to see them so well together is in an aquarium - but this is not the case - or in a studied photographic composition. In fact the photo is a digital art form of the Ukrainian artist Elena Vizerskaya, specializing in images with dreamlike tones made with photo retouching. Vizerskaya has never hidden the origin of the shot and has not tried to pass it off as a piece of nature photography. It was probably inspired by the friendly and sociable nature of the beluga, which in many (real) photos seems to smile or even popping kisses.