Dolphin Explorer LLC is the proprietor of The 10,000 Islands Dolphin Study which began in 2006. The team monitors the social behavior, abundance, travel range and genealogy of the local bottlenose population around Marco Island. The study continues…..
Everyone loves dolphins, no doubt about it. Just to see them come up to take a breath and have that dorsal fin glide along the water’s surface is fascinating to so many people. To watch this happen continuously is like Christmas morning over and over again.
Beneath those fins, there are some very special mammals and, like every creature on Earth, they all have a life, and they all have a unique story. One of our adult female bottlenose dolphins is a very active mother, giving birth to at least six offspring in the last fifteen years. Her name is Avery and I invite you to learn her history right now.
Birthing season in the waters of north Marco Island is typically in the fall months, and every three or four years, this has been the time that Avery has been giving birth. She has produced Lucky Charm, Aubrey, Flash, Anji, 360 and Stefin.
Lucky Charm was born in October of 2006 and turns fifteen years old this fall. Although a calf has never been seen by her side, it is believed that this one is a female, based on social behavior over the years. Many of our local ladies will mature, physically and sexually, from about seven to twelve years of age, producing new calves as young as eight years into their lives. In late 2019 and into 2020 our team documented quite a few sightings of Lucky Charm keeping company with Avery. Lucky Charm is seen often today and is doing well.
As is typical with many of our dolphins, the calves will stay by mother’s side for three to four years. By age three Avery taught Lucky Charm everything she needed to know to be prepared for life on her own so this one left mom, and for good reason. In October of 2009 Avery gave birth to a new calf named Aubrey.
Just like her older sister, Aubrey was schooled by Avery, spending just three years with mom as well. Avery is an excellent teacher, showing her offspring how to forage for fish once their teeth are ready. Young dolphins are smart and very attentive, watching mom’s every move so that they, too, can become successful hunters.
In 2012 Aubrey left mom’s care and Avery gave birth to Flash. Unfortunately, this calf did not survive very long. There are dangers in the water such as bull sharks and hammerheads and Flash became a victim. This left Avery without a calf but only for a short while. With no youngster to care for she became pregnant shortly after Flash’s demise and, one year later, in 2013, along came Anji.
Like her older siblings, Anji enjoyed a great learning experience by Avery’s side and still fishes quite often in the area where mom raised her. Anji turns eight years old later this year and should be reaching maturity soon, if not already.
Anji’s social behavior indicates that this is a female.
Right on schedule, in 2016 and three years after Anji’s birth, Avery produced a new calf named 360. This young male was quite the showman, displaying a lot of energy and playfulness during his three-year period with mom. Like Anji, 360 is seen often in the area where Avery taught him to feed.
360 left Avery’s care during the Summer of 2019 and it was highly anticipated that Avery was expecting a new calf in the fall. However, no newborn was ever seen later that year by Avery’s side. There is a possibility that a calf was born but lost its life shortly after birth, just as Flash did in 2012. During that fall two of our large males were seen following Avery quite often and the reason became clear in the fall of 2020 when Avery gave birth to Stefin.
Here we are now in May of 2021 and Stefin is celebrating seven months of life by Avery’s side. In addition to nursing from mom’s milk this youngster will be learning to fish soon, currently watching Avery’s every move in order to become a successful hunter as well.
What will happen in 2024? Will this amazing mom Avery continue to produce offspring every three or four years? Stay tuned…our study continues!
Bob is a Naturalist on board the dolphin study vessel and award winning ecotour Dolphin Explorer. He is also an owner of Wild Florida Ecotours at Port of the Islands, an author of 2 books and an award-winning columnist for Coastal Breeze News. Above it all, Bob loves his wife very much!