A swimmer missing for almost 12 hours off the Irish coast was rescued after a lifeboat crew’s attention was drawn to a pod of dolphins.
The RNLI volunteers spotted the exhausted man among the dolphins in the sea near Castlegregory in County Kerry.
Conservationists have now identified the animals as being from a population of bottlenose dolphins that feed and breed in Scotland’s Moray Firth.
The rescue was sparked by the discovery of the swimmer’s clothes on a beach.
The RNLI and coastguard teams carried out a search into Sunday night.
The RNLI said: “At 20:30, the volunteer lifeboat crew with Fenit RNLI spotted a pod of dolphins and a head above the water about two-and-a-half miles off Castlegregory beach.
“The casualty was conscious and immediately recovered onto the lifeboat and brought Fenit Harbour to be taken to hospital.”
The dolphins have been seen off the Irish coast since 2019.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group confirmed the identity of Sunday’s dolphins as the same animals. Scientists and conservationists can identify individual dolphins by the shape and markings on their dorsal fins.
The wayward Scottish group had included a dolphin known to scientists as Spirtle, who survived being badly sunburned while stranded on mudflats in the Cromarty Firth in 2016. After appearing off Ireland, she later returned to the Moray Firth where this month was spotted with her new-born calf.