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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Behavioral Development of Two Beluga Calves During the First Year of Life

  • Author(s): Hill, Heather M.
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

Currently, very little formal research exists regarding the behavioral development of beluga calves (Delphinapterus leucas). The behaviors and interactions of two beluga calves born into the care of humans were observed consistently from birth to 12 months. Changes in behavior were recorded continuously for 20 minutes for each mother-calf pair 2 to 4 times a week. As expected, the primary calf activity involved swimming with mother, which gradually decreased over the first year of life. Calves initiated the majority of their separations from and reunions with their mothers. Unexpectedly,the calves demonstrated an early independence and primary responsibility for proximity maintenance to their mothers. The calves also engaged in more solitary swims, object play, and interactions with each other across the year. In summary, the two calves followed developmental trends that were similar to each other and to other cetaceans in the care of humans.

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