Updated: Feb 9
The Spinner dolphin (Binomial name, Stenella longirostris). A small dolphin found in off-shore tropical waters around the world. They can weigh up to 170 lbs, grow up to 7.7ft long and have a life span of 20 to 30 years. They can easily swim at a speed of 20 knots and are the most common dolphin found in Hawaii. We are home to about 3000 of them that live and travel amongst the Hawaiian Islands. They come very close to shore in the morning periods to rest and sleep and swim out to deeper waters in the afternoons to feed on small fish and squid.
How do they sleep? The dolphins have a right brain and left brain like us humans. To sleep they do so by shutting down only one half of their brain at a time. The left eye will be closed when the right half of the brain sleeps and vice versa. A mother spinner dolphin will make sure to put her baby on the side that is open so she can watch her calf 24 hours a day! This is a great example of how tough, smart and caring these animals can be.
I've noticed that many people do not always know this about dolphins so I want to share this information with you. Dolphins are mammals, like us. They do not have eggs and when they deliver a baby, it is raised by milk. So this means that dolphins are NOT fish.
How do dolphins nurse their young? Hiding beneath each of the female's two mammary slits are teats. The calf will places their beak, slightly ajar, into the slit, and form a "cone" with its tongue, which latches onto the teat. Milk-ejection is then controlled voluntarily by the mother. This ensures that none of the milk is lost into the water. The calf spends only 5 to 10 seconds drinking at a time. Why do they drink for such a short period of time? This is because calves need to breathe often so they cannot spend a long time drinking milk. Dolphin milk is extremely rich and fatty compared to human milk and is about 5 times fattier. What does it taste like? I've heard it would be considered very unappealing to humans.
From my own observations spinner dolphins seem to have very strong family relationships. I have noticed that all the dolphins in the pod appear to protect the calves. Usually I will see the calves in the middle of the pod. It also seems to typically be the calves that are the most interested in any strange unknown creatures (usually meaning me). One time, as I dove, a calf swam in my direction to check me out when its mother came between us, slapped her calf with her tail and seemed to tell it, "I told you not to swim towards strangers!" I was blown away at the opportunity to witness such a special moment of a mother spinner dolphin teaching her calf a lesson.
My photo, displayed on canvas captures the moment just after the mother spinner dolphin slaps her calf and they swim away together. You can really feel the LOVE that radiates between a mother and her baby.
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Blog by Hawaii Underwater Photographer Akima Kai Contact
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Blog by Akima Kai
Photographer, Waimea Blue Gallery, Haleiwa