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Dolphins Life Cycle
The life cycle of the dolphin is very similar to that of any other mammal, even those which are land-based. The baby is born, the calf grows and reaches puberty, it then mates with another dolphin of the opposite sex, the dolphin fetus gestates in the female’s womb for a period of time before it is born and the cycle begins all over again.
There are a few species of dolphin in which the females only seem to be fertile for very short periods of time every couple of years, and tend to produce one calf every one and a half to three years. Whereas other species mate regardless of the time of year and produce offspring much more regularly. Generally speaking, the highest levels of mating occur during the spring months.
The gestation period of the dolphin ranges from 10 – 17 months, after which the female will give birth to live young. Females usually only give birth to one calf at a time. The baby dolphin is usually born tail first which makes it easier for the calf to swim to the surface of the water to take its first crucial breath. As soon as it is born, its mother or another female dolphin in the pod will nudge the calf with their nose towards the surface in the water. Females usually migrate to shallow waters to give birth, so that they can be close to the surface of the water and there is less chance of the newborn baby sinking far down into the sea.
Dolphins are mammals, which means that the females produce milk for their young. The babies will need this milk to survive for the first few months of their lives before they learn to catch and eat fish and crustaceans. Typically, mothers will nurse their calves for 6 months to 2 years after they are born.
Dolphins usually live until they are 25 years old, although there are some species for which the average life expectancy is as low as 17 years. There is very little difference in the life expectancy of dolphins which live in the wild and those which are bred in captivity. Scientists have found that dolphins are actually capable of easily living to 50 years old, but this is extremely rare, even when they are monitored, given veterinary attention whenever necessary and protected from harmful environments and dangerous predators.
Dolphins Life Cycle