Marine Moms: Dolphin, Turtle and Whale Motherhood

Marine Moms: Dolphin, Turtle and Whale Motherhood

There are lots of amazing moms all around the world. Even under the sea!

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we decided to learn more about what motherhood is like for the animals we encounter on our Dolphins and You tours. In Hawaii, three animals you might see out at sea are dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes whales.

The three animals all have very different motherhoods. But one thing’s certain: all ocean animals owe their existence to their amazing moms.

Spinner Dolphins

Hawaii is famous for its adorable and acrobatic spinner dolphins. But there is nothing cuter than a spinner dolphin baby.

When spinner dolphins are around 8 years old, they reach mating age. After choosing a partner, a dolphin mom will be pregnant for a full year or more!

Most spinner dolphin babies are born in the spring and summer months. Dolphins are mammals, which means they have live births and feed their babies with milk. And just like human moms, dolphin moms don’t get much sleep during their baby’s first couple months.

Dolphin babies spend 3-6 years with their moms learning all there is to know about dolphin life. Their moms teach them everything from how they should catch food to how they can avoid danger. It’s easy to spot a mother and dolphin pair, because they will swim in synchrony.

Dolphin moms also form very strong bonds with their babies, just like humans. When a calf dies, mother dolphins have been observed mourning their young, much like is seen in other mammals.

Sea Turtles

Unlike dolphins, sea turtles don’t form strong bonds with their young. Hawaiian green sea turtles are classified as amniotes, not mammals, because they lay eggs and breathe air.

Because sea turtles lay eggs and then leave, most moms never even meet their young. But that doesn’t mean they work any less hard to be a good mom.

Green sea turtles travel up to 1,500 miles from their feeding grounds to their natal beach in order to lay their eggs. Once there, they haul their large bodies up onto the beach to lay their eggs at night.

The sea turtle mom works hard to dig a hole in the sand where conditions are suitable, and then she uses her fins to bury the eggs with dry sand. This keeps them safe from predators. Then she heads back out to sea.

Once a baby sea turtle hatches, it makes a mad dash to the ocean, where it will spend most of its early life in deep waters before it too is ready to mate.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are more similar to dolphins than sea turtles, as they are also mammals. But the motherhood process is truly extraordinary.

Humpback whales become sexually mature between the ages of 4 and 8 years old. A female gives birth every couple years. She stays pregnant for around 12 months, just like the dolphin.

So what makes the humpback whales motherhood so amazing? Humpback whale moms make the ultimate sacrifice in order to give birth.

Humpback whales prey can be found in cold waters around Alaska. But apex predators like sharks and killer whales also thrive there, which would put their babies at risk.

To keep their babies safe, humpback whale moms migrate across more than 3,000 miles of ocean to reach Hawaii’s warmer waters. When the mom gives birth to her one-ton baby, she must stay in the warmer waters for several months – eating nothing all the while.

She is weak when she makes the 3,000 mile journey back to her feeding grounds with her baby by her side. But she will have succeeded in keeping her baby safe and passing on her knowledge to the next generation. And that’s what motherhood is all about.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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