Baby Dolphin Nursing: How Do They Do It?
All mammals, both above water and underwater, nurse from their mom after birth. For some, however, that is easier said than done.
Mammals that live in the ocean are challenged with drinking a liquid while they are also swimming in a liquid. When you consider that dolphins and whales don't have lips like we do to create a seal around moms mammary, their task is even more difficult. So how do they do it? Here's the secret: marine mammals are able to roll their tongue like a straw.
They even have little finger-like projections on the sides of their tongue that act like a zipper. These keeps mom's milk in the calf's mouth - and at the same time -- keeps salt water out. Another thing that makes drinking under water easier for dolphins is that dolphin milk has a very thick viscosity. It's like drinking a milkshake.
Calves get all the nutrients they need from nursing sessions that take only five-ten seconds total. They will “eat” multiple times during the day. Nursing continues for the first one to three years of a dolphins life. Eventually they will start to play with fish -- and then start eating it regularly as a meal.
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