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Dolphin Tales: Tail first

By Capt. Cathy Eagle - | Feb 3, 2021

Baby dolphins are typically born tail first so they don’t drown before they’re able to take their first breath of air. Babies are called calves. At birth they can range in length from 39 and 53 inches long and weigh between 22 and 44 pounds.

Worldwide, calves are born throughout the year but birthing season depends on geographic location. In the Sarasota Bay area, births occur in late spring to early summer with a secondary birthing peak in early autumn. There is a similar birthing pattern in our local waters as well.

In the first few days after birth, the calf’s dorsal fin and tail flukes are pliable and lack firmness, but gradually stiffen. Of course, this is necessary for the birthing process. Calves are darker than adults and show several vertical, light lines on their sides, which are a result of fetal folding. The lines disappear within six months.

Calves get all the nutrients they need from nursing. Nursing sessions take only 5 to 10 seconds total. They will eat multiple times during the day. Calves typically nurse for one to three years. The maximum nursing period observed in the Sarasota Bay area was seven years. Eventually, the calves will start to play with fish and soon they will be eating fish as a regular meal.

Mother dolphins are very protective of their calves. Often, the mother will have an assisting dolphin who stays close to the new mother and calf. Although this assisting dolphin is often referred to as an “auntie” dolphin, it may be male or female. This “auntie” dolphin may be the only other dolphin a mother will allow near her calf.

Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239-994-2572.