Feeding and growth in a captive-born bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
The feeding and growth of a captive-born bottlenose dolphin Tursiops trunatus calf were studied for 30 months post partum. Changes in the behaviours associated with suckling were monitored and suggested that the mammary glands need tactile stimulation before the calf can feed. The calf exhibited no teat preference and mean duration of each suckling bout (4 s) remained constant throughout the suckling period. Suckling frequency declined rapidly during the first two months and continued decreasing steadily for the remainder of the study. A reduced growth rate from seven months suggests that nutrition obtained only from milk is insufficient; however, growth rate increased from 11 months, after the calf started feeding on fish. Solid food intake increased rapidly until completion of the study, by which time the calf was eating 16 kg of fish daily. Short-term reductions in food intake after weaning resulted in corresponding reductions in weight, but appeared to have no effect on linear growth.