Is there milkshake in the sea? Yes!
Whales and dolphins are marine mammals that not only have lungs and breathe, but suckle their offspring like other mammals. In the sea, a liquid element, of course, it’s a completely different matter. How can this work? The mother animal has, in the genital area, an anal slit and a genital slit. In addition to the genital slit, there is another small slit on each side. A teat is hidden in each skin pocket. This has the advantage that the part of the body that would otherwise protrude cannot cause any frictional resistance, which would slow down the animal and make it less successful in the hunt. The mother animal is highly sensitive in the teat area. If the calf wants to be suckled, it will touch the mother’s abdomen with the tip of its beak. The mother pushes a teat out of her skin pocket and presses the milk out of the teat with high pressure. Now comes another challenge! Marine mammals don’t have lips to suckle with. Now how could this little difficulty be solved? Dolphins are thought to be able to wrap their tongues around mom’s teat. In this way, mom can pour mother milk into babies mouths. By the way, there is another theory that says that the calf inserts its lower jaw into the mother’s skin pocket where the teat is located to suck the milk. In humans, the fat content of breast milk is around 4%. In animal mammals, the fat content of this high-quality baby food is between 4-17%. Here, too, the marine mammals differ from all others. The fat content of mother milk is extremely rich. The fat content is between 40-60% fat. This has several advantages. Foremost, the milk is so rich in nutrients and fat that the calf grows quickly and builds up a good supply of fat, the so-called blubber. This naturally protects the little one from hypothermia in the sea. Because the consistency is more reminiscent of yogurt, it also can float in the water and can be removed from the water from the whale calf. This consistency avoids that the milk can mix with the other liquid element, the sea. Incidentally, it is assumed that a Blue whale calf gets about 300 liters of mom’s milk per day. This is produced from the mother’s fat store. As you can see, even in the sea there is a wonderful nutrient-rich milkshake with lots of protein and a high fat content.
Today we saw Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) on our midday tour. In the evening tour, we observed the same group of Bottlenose dolphins and a pod of the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). The kindergarden group of this species of dolphin brought their little calves close to the boat.
By Fatima Kutzschbach
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins
15:00 no sighting
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins
14:00 Bottlenose dolphins
17:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins