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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The frequency and nature of allocare by a group of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) in human care

  • Author(s): Hill, Heather M.
  • Campbell, Carolyn
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

The care of offspring by non-parental caregivers, or allocare, is common across many taxa.  Several functions of allocare have been proposed, including opportunities to rest or forage for the mother, experiences to learn about caring for young animals for naïve females, or additional nourishment and protection for the offspring.  Belugas, like many cetaceans, display allocare.  However, the frequency and contexts in which allocare occurs have not been studied extensively.  The purpose of the current study was to document the frequency of allocare in a group of belugas in human care that steadily increased in its number of offspring over a period of four years.  The results suggested that allocare did not occur as frequently as mother-calf swims and occurred when adult females without calves were available in the social grouping.  Additionally, certain allocare partners seemed to be preferred by specific mother-calf pairs.  The results also indicated that the calf may play a more active role in the selection of an allocare partner than previously acknowledged.  This study supports the importance of social composition when young offspring are present.

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