It has been a record year for dolphin calves in Sarasota waters, according to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), a Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) program in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory. According to a Mote news release, nineteen bottlenose dolphin caves have been documented during this year’s calving season. Calving season peaks during late spring and summer.
SDRP began their research in 1970, making it the world’s longest running study of a wild dolphin population. They have documented births by female dolphins ranging in age from 6 to 48 years, including the oldest known age bottlenose Nicklo, who is now 67 years old.
The gestation period for dolphins is 12.5 months. Newborn calves range between 42 to 52 inches and weigh between 30 to 45 pounds and are typically born tail first.
The nineteen baby calves joined up to five concurrent generations of long term resident dolphins in the Sarasota Bay area year round.
“Bottlenose dolphins are sentinels of the health of our coastal ecosystem in Sarasota,” said Wells, who is director of CZS’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. “They breathe the same air, swim in the same waters, and eat the same fish we do. Because of our consistent long term research, our local bottlenose dolphins also serve as a reference population for NOAA and other research partners worldwide.”
While the record numbers of births is good news, naïve newborn dolphins lack the skills and experience to avoid boats, Mote warns. They have to surface more frequently to breathe than do older dolphins. Mothers can be more distracted with newborns and will not or cannot always get out of the way of approaching boats.
NOAA’s guidelines indicates that boats should stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins and never to feed them. Boaters should follow Coast Guard approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking marine animals.
Photo courtesy of NOAA