Humpback whales are known for singing beautiful love songs during mating season. Both males and females can vocalize, but only males produce songs that can last from a few minutes to more than half an hour. Scientists studying the songs have found that they change each season, as if the whales are creating new songs throughout the year and can’t wait to put them all out. It is amazing how large groups of male whales get together and sing the same song together! How do female whales resist the charm of boy groups? Let’s take a look at how whales carry on their vast legacy through mating and reproduction.
How do whales mate?
Mating in water has its challenges! For example, there is nothing solid to lie on or lean on in water. Additionally, whales and dolphins need to breathe every 3 to 15 minutes. Anything other than the quick mating process makes the whales need to get to the surface for air! As we will describe below, different whale species have their own courtship and pre-mating rituals.
How do humpback whales mate and reproduce?
Humpback whales migrate during breeding and birth season, making an incredible journey of more than 5,000 miles. For example, North Pacific humpback whales spend their summers in the waters around northern California, northern Japan, and the Bering Sea. During mating season, they trek to four different breeding grounds; Hawaii, the southern islands of Japan, Mexico and Central America. They made their way down in groups, some in small groups of 2-3 people, some in large groups, and some traveled long distances by themselves. Off the coast of Hawaii, 5,000 or more humpback whales gather each year between December and May, where they form competitive groups to mate.
What is a race pod?
Once in a breeding ground, whales form competitive groups. A single female whale is usually paired with a primary guardian (male), and a group of males will fight to overthrow the guardian and gain the right to mate. A pod can range from just a few whales to larger groups of 12-15. Whales will bump their heads, slap their tails, and flap their fins to attract the attention of females. Females may also start a high-speed game of chase with the males in hot pursuit. Some whales may give up and take off from the competition pod, while others may join in to see if they have what it takes. Eventually, a male wins the right to mate, and the female and male can dive together and return together. Whales fertilize internally, so the male deposits sperm in the female to fertilize an egg. Females will carry singleton babies for nearly a full year, with gestation lasting 11 months. Whales are not monogamous, and males and females do not form close bonds after mating.
What do we know about baby humpback whales?
After about a year, the female whales will return to the migratory area to give birth to their calves. Whales are mammals, so they give birth to live young, which are then breastfed. Small humpback whales can be 12-16 feet long.
The calf lived a glamorous life in the early stages of its life, being fed up to 150 gallons of thick, high-fat milk the consistency of toothpaste.
Calves are usually weaned around 6 months before they start trying solid food. They are also very curious and may swim to keep an eye on approaching ships. They like to hover close to their mother, using their slipstream for ease of movement.
Since they can’t stay underwater for as long as their parents, the calves jump to the surface every four minutes for fresh air.
Think how awkward a baby whale will look when learning to use its fins and tail for the first time! They will remain very close to their mother for about a year before venturing away. The mother migrates with her calves, and the mother will teach her children the routes so they will know the way when they grow up. As the males grow a bit older, they will learn the singing tradition by singing with experienced older males.
How do blue whales mate and reproduce?
How do whales mate when they happen to be among the largest mammals on Earth?
The largest species of whale and the largest animal, blue whales are difficult to track and study, so the information we have about them is still evolving. We found that some migrated seasonally to breeding grounds, while others seemed more habitable. The presence of krill, their main food source, appears to be a bigger factor in determining where the whales are. Blue whales are relatively solitary and spend most of their time alone except for the breeding season. During courtship, male whales may participate in what’s known as a “hot run,” in which two males chase after a single female. Blue whales and humpback whales have the same internal fertilization, where males fertilize females. We know very little about the blue whale’s reproductive cycle, but scientists estimate that the gestation period is 10-12 months and that females also give birth when they return to the breeding grounds.
What do we know about baby blue whales?
Since blue whales are the largest animals, you would think they have the largest babies, and you would be right. A baby blue whale can weigh up to 6,000 pounds at birth! With a body size like this, it’s no surprise that mothers only give birth to one baby at a time. All whales are mammals, so babies nuzzle their mother’s milk early on.
During this time, the calf gained about 250 pounds per day due to consuming more than 50 gallons of milk with a fat content of 35% – 50% per day. Calves are weaned when they are 6 to 8 months old. However, it will stay with its mother for several years before venturing out on its own.
How do dolphins mate and reproduce?
How do whales mate when they happen to be smaller, more nimble versions of their larger cousins?
Dolphins, a type of whale, have been extensively studied in the wild and in captivity. Dolphins are playful animals, and researchers have years of data and observations about their mating and reproductive behavior. Female dolphins reach sexual maturity between 7-12 years old, while male dolphins reach sexual maturity slightly later, between 10-15 years old. Because dolphins prefer warmer waters, they do migrate seasonally to warmer waters, but this is different from migrating for breeding purposes, since dolphins can mate year-round.
When they do mate, the males can be observed swimming around, in an s-position (their nose is up, fins down, back up, tail down, bending their body into an “s” shape), and vocalizing . Males and females may chase each other, playfully biting each other’s teeth. One pair appears to become limp and lie on its side, while the male approaches to mate and injects sperm into the female for fertilization. Male dolphins don’t hang around, they’re not monogamous, and they don’t mate for life. The female will carry the baby for about 12 months. Dolphins can only carry one baby at a time.
What do we know about baby dolphins?
After a gestation period of 12 months, the calf will be born live. Baby dolphins are born with their tails forward and their dorsal fin folded up until they are born. They are 40-50 inches long and weigh between 20-40 lbs. They have a darker skin tone than adult animals and appear streaked, but these will fade and their color will become a lighter gray (for most species). Female dolphins have been witnessed assisting new mothers during childbirth, and females in pods will join mothers to help care for their pups.
Male dolphins do not assist in caring for young and tend to form groups with other males. Dolphins are mammals and their young nurse for 2-4 years and stay with their mother for 3-6 years. When dolphins are away from their mothers, they tend to group up and form juvenile schools with similarly aged dolphins. Young dolphins seem to enjoy playing with each other, perhaps playing hide and seek with seaweed or catching puffer fish. A video from BBC Earth shows dolphins playing with puffer fish underwater!
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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