A baby dolphin is commonly called a calf, similar to whales and other cetaceans. This term is widely used by marine biologists and dolphin experts when referring to newborn and juvenile dolphins.
Why are Baby Dolphins Called Calves?
- Dolphin calves stay with their mothers for several years after birth, forming a strong mother-calf bond, just like whale calves.
- The gestation period for dolphins is around 12 months and results in a single calf, furthering the similarity to whale calves.
- Other less common names for baby dolphins include pup, kit, and kid. But calf is the most standard name used in scientific literature.
Interesting Facts About Dolphin Calves
- Dolphin calves are usually born tail first to minimize risk of drowning and take their first breath at the surface.
- Calves nurse on dolphin milk for 1-2 years but stay with their mothers for up to 4 years to learn skills.
- Mothers care for the single calf with help from other female dolphins in the pod.
- In the first year, calves start developing echolocation and learn to hunt and engage in play, under close supervision.
- Calves initially swim alongside mothers to ride in their slipstream and conserve energy.
- Each dolphin calf develops a unique signature whistle for identification within its first few months.
Physical Development Stages of Dolphin Calves
|Birth to 4 months||Nursing, swim alongside mother, shedding of hair|
|4 to 6 months||Growing teeth, learning to catch fish|
|6 months to 1 year||Improving swimming skills and stamina|
|1 to 2 years||Weaning off mother’s milk, hunting small fish|
|2 to 4 years||Learning advanced skills like communication, play, and group behaviors|
How Long Do Calves Stay with Their Mothers?
- Nurse for 1-2 years
- Stay together for 3-6 years
- Mothers very protective during this time
- Other females help care for the calf
Comparison of Calves Between Dolphin Species
|Species||Gestation Period||Calf Size at Birth||Time with Mother|
|Bottlenose Dolphin||12 months||3-4 ft, 25-45 lbs||3-6 years|
|Orca||17 months||7-8 ft, 400 lbs||Lifetime|
|Amazon River Dolphin||13 months||2-3 ft, 15-30 lbs||2-3 years|
|Common Dolphin||11 months||2-3 ft, 15-25 lbs||1-3 years|
So, in summary, calf is the most accurate term used to describe baby dolphins, especially bottlenose dolphins, due to their biological similarities with whale calves. This name is widely used and recognized among dolphin experts and trainers when referring to juveniles.