Friday, March 5, 2021

An Early Start to Our Dolphin Birthing Season

Stepping Stones

The survey team on board the Dolphin Explorer is really excited! This group of professionals tracks the abundance, movement, pattern associations and travel range of the bottlenose dolphins on the north end of Marco Island. It is typical to see new calves (baby dolphins) every fall but this year the stork has come early with some deliveries.

Our normal birthing season usually ranges from mid-September through October but, as of September 15th, four new calves have been seen and at least three more are expected this month or next. Let’s introduce you to these youngsters.

Tateo and Teigan: Adult female Tateo is seen at the entrance to the Gulf waters where it meets the Marco River. This is this lady’s first known calf. They were initially seen together on the morning of August 23rd with another female and calf and several other dolphins, feeding about ½ mile away from the Marco River entrance. Teigan, the calf was very dark in color and the “fetal folds,” creases in the infant’s skin from the way it is positioned inside mom, were quite prominent, indicating that the calf was very recently born. The team looks forward to seeing them often.

Rakes and Sand Dollar: Seen with Tateo and Teigan on August 23rd for the first time, this is adult female Rakes’ third known calf. She is also the mom of Scamp, born in 2012 and Tigertail, born in 2016. Females in this survey area tend to produce new calves every three to six years. Both of Rakes’ offspring are doing well on their own and feelings are very positive that newborn Sand Dollar will learn well from this mom.

Dolly and Kalani: Dolly is also an experienced mom, giving birth to Llama in 2013 and Parton in 2016. Her pattern is clearly producing a new calf every three years. The calf that just left mom’s side, Parton, is a shark bite survivor and shows scars over the right eye and back from what appears to be a bull shark. Parton is doing well, as is Dolly’s other offspring Llama. The newest addition to the family, Kalani, will benefit from mom’s experience in successfully raising two others. Kalani, in Hawaiian, means “The Heavens.”

Halfway and Ben: Being a member of this survey team, I have to say that adult female Halfway is my favorite dolphin in this area. She is well seasoned and consistent in her birthing. Like clockwork, she has produced a new calf every three years since 2004. Seymour was born in 2004, Simon in 2007, Kaya in 2010, Skipper in 2013, Wyatt in 2016 and, yes, Ben in 2019. Ben was first seen on September 16th. Halfway’s young have thrived in area waters and her daughter Kaya gave birth last fall to Ariel, making Halfway a grandmother! Ben is named after our Captain Michael’s addition to his own family.

Last year the team saw 10 new births in the area. With the exception of Orange giving birth to Scoop on August 28th, all of the other new calves were seen after September 21st. This year there have been four known births prior to September 16th. Speculation on why there are so many early births this year is being researched as we speak.

In addition to the four females mentioned above there are a few more that are expected to give birth this fall. Rangle, Nibbles and Avery are very likely candidates while Sydney, Sintas, Batman and Tess are on our “watch” list. There could be a surprise from one or two of our females reaching maturity. Namely Lucky Charm, Aubrey and Double Dip bear watching as well.

You can keep up with the latest news regarding area dolphin births on the team’s Facebook page at The Dolphin Explorer Marco Island or via their website You can also make a reservation and join them on the Dolphin Explorer by making a reservation online or calling 239-642-6899.

Keep following! We are excited to keep you posted!

Bob is a Naturalist for the dolphin study team on board the Dolphin Explorer. He is the author of two books available locally and an award-winning contributor to this newspaper. Bob loves his wife very much!

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