Curious to know more about the dietary needs of dolphins? Allow us to tell you all about it.
Dolphins drink milk, much like whales and humans. They are not equipped to hunt for themselves soon after being born like sharks are and, therefore, rely on their mothers to supply them with the required nutrition. Dolphins do not consume any solid food for 2 to 3 years after being born and are solely dependent on the milk their mother produces.
There are a lot of questions people ask about dolphins and their milk-drinking habits. Out here, we have attempted to answer some of the most popular questions pertaining to the dolphins’ dietary habits.
Image Credits: baby dolphin with mother by TDR Photography
How do dolphins feed their babies?
Newborn and infant dolphins need to be fed, like children of most mammals. But, how do dolphins feed their babies? Let us find out.
Dolphins are equipped with mammary glands that produce milk which is then fed to the young calves. The young calves fold their tongues like a straw, and the mother dolphin directly puts the milk in the baby’s mouth. The milk is very thick, and therefore the calf can easily consume it underwater.
When the calf is hungry, it dives into the water and nudges the mother’s mammary glands. It is the mother dolphin who controls the amount of milk the calf drinks in one go.
Do dolphins drink milk from their mother?
Are you wondering whether dolphins drink milk from their mother as whales do? Let us find out.
Dolphins drink milk from their mother and are nursed for up to 24 months. Dolphins, like mammals, are not trained to survive on their own after birth. Although they learn how to swim before they are born and can travel to the surface to breathe, they do not have any knowledge about hunting, and therefore, the milk from their mothers becomes the primary source of nourishment for them.
Dolphins start drinking milk as soon as they are born, and sometimes, some dolphins may continue being nursed by their mother till they are three years of age. Sometimes, some dolphins stay with their mothers till they are six. Once they shift to solid food, their diet mostly comprises fish, squid, and octopuses.
How do dolphins produce milk?
You might be wondering how dolphins manage to produce milk? Allow us to tell you more in this regard.
Dolphins are equipped with mammary glands and inverted nipples. These mammary glands produce milk during the lactation period, which allows the dolphins to feed their young ones. The lactation period of dolphins can be anywhere between six months to three years, and the milk produced is the primary source of nourishment for baby dolphins.
We must mention here that dolphin calves rely on their mother’s milk for all their nourishment. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that dolphin milk has high-fat content and is extremely rich, thereby ensuring that the calves get proper nutrition and grow healthier.
Can baby dolphins survive without milk?
Although milk is essential for baby dolphins, will it be possible for them to survive without it? Let us find out.
Baby dolphins cannot survive without milk since they have no other source of nourishment. Newborn dolphins rely on their mother’s milk for nutrition and are solely dependent on it to grow and develop, having no alternative food choices till they are 2 to 3 years of age. Besides, they are not trained to hunt as newborns and, therefore, will starve to death without milk.
It is tough for baby dolphins to survive without the constant support of their mothers because they can neither fight nor fend for themselves. Dolphins rely on their mothers to feed them for at least three years of their lives and are also trained to breathe by traveling to the surface and taking in fresh air through their blowholes.
Can dolphins feed their calves continuously?
We have already established that dolphin babies rely on milk for their nourishment. But, can dolphins feed their calves continuously? Let us find out.
Dolphins cannot feed their calves continuously as these mammals need to travel to the surface to breathe since they do not have gills that will help them breathe underwater. Although calves feed throughout the day, they usually feed at intervals of 20 minutes, and this leaves plenty of time for the dolphin and the calf to travel to the surface to breathe.
We must mention here that dolphins do not give birth frequently. In fact, they only give birth to their next offspring once their previous one has been entirely weaned.
One advantage of dolphin’s milk is that it is extremely thick, almost with a milkshake-like consistency. This ensures that the milk is not lost to the watery surroundings, and every ounce can be used to feed the baby dolphin. Once dolphins are old enough and trained enough to fend for themselves, they shift to proper seafood.