Also like other mammal species dolphins will typically give birth to a single offspring once every 1 – 6 years; however on rare occasions a dolphin may give birth to twins.
This type of reproduction is very different from other aquatic animals such as fish and amphibians as they are known to lay eggs that hatch (usually externally), meaning that the bond between child and mother is much less significant and unlike dolphins fish and amphibians do not feed or nurture their child through an umbilical cord.
Additionally these animals can lay thousands of eggs each year rather than giving birth to a single offspring every 1 to 6 years the way dolphins and other cetaceans do.
For dolphins the average gestation period (the period from conception to birth) can vary significantly depending on the species from 9 months all the way up to 17 months!
As a species dolphins are an extremely sexual and non monogamous animals.
In fact one dolphin can mate with many partners over the course of its life.
During mating periods where male dolphins compete with one another to find a mating partner these marine mammals can become aggressive with one another and may try to out perform another through mating rituals or by fighting with eachother.
In some cases males may even horde off the female dolphin in order to prevent her from becoming impregnated by another male.
Researchers have also observed instances where whole groups of male dolphins may form a faction to fend off competing male dolphins from mating with a female or group of females.
In less competitive groups males may attempt to court the female by bringing her gifts, singing or displaying his youth and fitness through various acrobatic and water stunts.
What’s more interesting is that unlike other marine mammals dolphins don’t just mate during mating season.
Dolphins can mate any time of the year and some will mate just for pleasure.
Note: As with their gestation period the mating habits of dolphins can vary considerably between species and groups.
After giving birth the female dolphin feeds her young by producing a thick paste like milk which her child suckles from her nipple.
Dolphin milk usually has a high concentration of fat which allows the milk to travel through the water and into the baby’s mouth without breaking up in the water.
In some cases the dolphins milk may appear to be of a thick paste like consistency.
In addition to producing a thick milk (which is able to travel short distances without breaking up) baby dolphins will create a very tight seal around the mothers nipple to prevent it from making contact with the salty ocean water.
Dolphin milk is full of nutrients and healthy fats which are important for ensuring that the baby dolphin gets the nutrients it needs to grow into a healthy adult.
Depending on the dolphins species and the baby dolphin that is feeding on the mother’s milk suckling may continue anywhere between 6 months to 2 years or until the child is able to hunt for food on its own.
In some cases a baby dolphin may continue to suckle from its mother even after the mother stops lactating until it can fully separate from its psychological bond and dependency on its mother.
Once the young dolphin reaches sexual maturity it can begin looking for a mating partner and begin the process all over again.
In terms of characterizing dolphins as a family the female dolphin is referred to as the cow, the male is called the bull and the child is known as the calf.