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The Birth of a Baby Dolphin
(Photos and Video)

The following sequence of remarkable photos are from a rare video taken during the actual birth of a baby dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).  The birth occurred just before dawn with very little available light, so the images are a little dark and the resolution is a bit grainy, but the process is quite clear. 

The sequence runs left to right, top to bottom.  Each photo is presented in thumbnail form. Just click on each image to see a full size version of the photo. 

Birth04.jpg (35901 bytes)    Birth05.jpg (37486 bytes)    Birth06.jpg (37438 bytes)

Birth07.jpg (35998 bytes)    Birth08.jpg (36295 bytes)    Birth09.jpg (36155 bytes)

Birth10.jpg (36929 bytes)    Birth11.jpg (35920 bytes)    Birth12.jpg (35748 bytes)

Birth13.jpg (34886 bytes)    Birth14.jpg (37080 bytes)    Birth15.JPG (32084 bytes)
Moments after the baby was born, he rose to the surface of the water to take his first breath of air, the sun came up over the horizon and the dolphin calf was bathed in the warm glow of a brand new day.

A Remarkable Example of Trust 

The following three thumbnail photos are from the same videotape but taken several hours before the birth.  To help enhance image quality, these photos are presented in black and white format.  

Birth03.JPG (42893 bytes)For many hours before the actual birth took place the mother dolphin experienced the normal discomfort of "labor" known to all expectant mammal mothers. What was remarkable about this particular labor process was the fact that the female dolphin sought out the comfort and assistance of her trainer who is seen laying on her stomach by the pool side.  Even though another female dolphin shared the same pool the expectant mother often chose the contact of her trainer over that of her pool mate.  In this photo you can see the dolphin has swum up to the pool side and presented her flukes and lower abdomen to the trainer.  The trainer has responded by gently messaging the dolphin in the area presented.  The attending veterinarian observes nearby. 

Birth01.jpg (27810 bytes)Here you can see a close up of the trainer rubbing and messaging the peduncle of the expectant mother dolphin.  You can clearly see the flukes of the baby have already emerged from the birth canal. The expectant mother  obviously found some comfort and relief through this activity as she remained in this voluntary position for many minutes at a time and returned to this same position many times through out the night. 

Birth02.JPG (35949 bytes)It may take several hours for a baby dolphin to completely pass from the mother's womb once the flukes have emerged. Having the opportunity for the trainer and veterinarian to examine the mother and calf this closely during the labor process is a great help in monitoring the labor process.  The kind of trust exhibited by this expectant mother dolphin can only happen if a close personal relationship already exists between dolphin and trainer; a relationship founded on mutual trust and respect developed over many years of daily interaction.   

 

 

 

Click here for a digital clip of the birth video

 

Courtesy of 
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

 
bulletFor more information about bottlenose dolphins, including some reproductive and birth data, check out our Dolphin Profile page. 

 

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Revised: August 27, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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