These Facts About Baby Dolphins Make Us Go ‘Awww’
If you have ever seen a baby dolphin, especially a baby bottlenose dolphin, then you are lucky indeed.
These Facts About Baby Dolphins Make Us Go ‘Awww’
For centuries, dolphins were considered a sign of good luck by sailors who spotted them in the ocean. Symbolically, these friendly mammals represent rebirth, renewal, joy, guidance and freedom. Dreams and frequent sightings of baby dolphins indicate a need for emotional, mental and spiritual growth. But mostly, they symbolize an inspirational message of encouragement to move forward in life.
If you've ever seen a baby dolphin, especially a baby bottlenose dolphin, then you are lucky indeed. Here are some fun facts about these adorable, curious mammals.
Dolphins evolved from land mammals.
Dolphins are an order of mammals known as Cetaceans that originated about 50 million years ago.
They evolved from land mammals before developing a horizontal tail and a spine that enabled them to move through the water.
The hippo is believed to be the closest-living relative to the Cetaceans.
Today, there are 49 porpoise and dolphin species — all of which descended from the hippopotamus, another mammal that finds solace in the water.
The female bottlenose dolphin can reproduce between ages 5 to 15.
In fact, they reach sexual maturity before males and give birth to a calf every three to six years after a 12-month gestation period.
Dolphins are one of a few species that engage in sex for pleasure.
The others are bonobos and, of course, humans.
Most people refer to dolphin babies as ‘calves.’
However, males are called "bulls," and females are "cows."
Baby bottlenose dolphins are born tail first.
This is so that they don't drown before they're able to take their first breath.
In the first few days, their fin and tail lack firmness but gradually stiffen over time.
They weigh up to 45 pounds at birth.
A baby bottlenose dolphin is roughly 39- to 53-inches long and weighs between 20 and 45 pounds.
While that seems large, they can grow to be 13-feet long and about 1,300 pounds.
Baby bottlenose dolphins have short, stubby noses.
Sometimes called “beaks,” their noses are shaped like bottles, which is how they earned their name.
Their coloring is usually a bluish-grey on top with either a white or pale grey belly underneath.
They’re hairy at birth.
Calves are born with hair and whiskers on the upper jaw, but this falls off shortly after birth.
As they mature, dolphins shed their outermost layer of skin every two hours. This helps them keep an aerodynamic finish to their skin.
Baby dolphins are known to stick with their mothers for three to six years.
During this time, they learn how to navigate their habitat, hunt and avoid danger.
The blowhole on top of the baby dolphin's sleek body doesn't only function as a nose.
It's also used as a way to communicate with its mother and other nearby dolphins.
They learn at an early age how to vocalize and make clicking sounds.
Calves are very active from the moment they are born.
This, of course, means their mothers get very little rest.
Studies have shown that most mothers cannot rest on the surface during the first three weeks postpartum.
Dolphins are very sociable creatures that prefer to travel in groups.
These are referred to as "pods."
Each pod consists of 10 to 15 dolphins.
Every baby dolphin creates its own unique whistle sound shortly after birth.
This sound is used for identification, much like our use of human names.
The high-frequency clicks that baby dolphins learn act like a sonar system known as echolocation.
Once the clicking sound hits an object in the water, it bounces back as an echo.
This enables the calf to estimate an object's size, speed, distance and location.
Newborn calves nurse their mothers below water but near the surface.
Each session lasts between five and 10 seconds. They nurse three to eight times per hour and continue nursing for the first few years before they are completely weaned.
However, they can eat fish once they reach 51 to 59 inches.
After a baby dolphin is weaned from its mother, it will hunt for its own food.
Their diet consists mainly of fish, squid and crustaceans, and when they eat, they start with the head first to avoid going against the grain of the scales.
Dolphins hunt together by forming a circle or ‘mud ring’ to catch fish.
They also catch prey by smacking it with their tail to stun it first, which prevents the fish from escaping.
On average, a dolphin eats 5 percent of its body weight every day.
While swimming in pods, adult dolphins surround the calves to protect them from sharks or whales.
This behavior also conserves the calves' energy.
In addition, adults swimming above and along the babies' sides helps propel them through the water.
Bottlenose dolphins are one of the smartest mammals on the planet.
That’s because of their advanced communication skills and extraordinary sense of hearing.
As a result, they are easily trained to perform complex tricks, so they're often used in aquatic shows.
The bottlenose dolphin's brain weighs roughly 1,500 to 1,600 grams.
In comparison, the human brain weighs 1,300 to 1,400 grams, but humans have a greater brain-to-body mass ratio. Many studies from intelligence-based tests show that the dolphin species are second only to us in their intelligence level (when using brain size as a barometer) with an EQ (Emotional Quotient) of approximately 4.14 to 4.56.
This proves that dolphins are highly capable of feeling and sensing emotions in themselves and others.
Dolphins live in temperate and tropical waters (both deep and shallow) worldwide.
Their habitats include gulfs, harbors, bays and the open seas.
Although other dolphin species thrive in freshwater, the bottlenose can develop more skin diseases living in freshwater and are better off in saltwater.
A mature dolphin can swim up to 22 miles per hour.
Maybe even more impressive: It can also hold its breath for five to seven minutes.
Baby dolphins form lifelong friendships at an early age.
Once they're older, they spend their time in pods where they play, hunt, mate and protect one another.
The average lifespan of a bottlenose dolphin is 45 to 50 years.
But some females can live up to 60 years.
Of all the animals on the planet, the dolphin has some of the best hearing capabilities of any other mammal.
Sound travels through the dolphin's lower jaw to its inner ear and is then transmitted to the brain.
Dolphins can make up to 1,000 clicking noises at a time
But this is not done through the mouth since they don't have vocal cords in their larynx.
Most of the sounds they make come from the nasal passage from which they can whistle, squeal and trill.
The age of a young bottlenose dolphin can be determined by counting each layer in their teeth.
This works similarly to counting the rings in a tree stump to identify age.
Each layer represents one year.
Dolphins do not have a sense of smell.
But what they lack in that area, they make up for in having excellent eyesight both in and out of the water.
Bottlenose dolphins have 80 to 100 conical teeth but swallow their food whole.
Interestingly, they also have three stomach chambers — one acts as storage, the other has hydrochloric acid to break down the food, and the third chamber prepares the food to become waste.
The oldest (documented) living bottlenose dolphin was a female named Nicklo.
She lived in Sarasota Bay, Florida, and she lived to be 67 — as far as we know.
She has actually not been seen since 2017.
A baby bottleneck dolphin instinctively realizes that they must shut down one hemisphere of their brain while sleeping to stay alive.
The other half of the brain monitors their breathing functions.
Like other dolphins, they always sleep with one eye open!
Dolphins jump out of the water to see the surface clearly and to search for food.
They can jump 15 to 20 feet out of the water and often snap their jaws, slap their tails or blow bubbles.
Jumping is also a way to look for threats such as sharks and whales or search for nearby dolphins. Baby dolphins do this instinctively, following their mother's lead.