Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Calf Born At Shedd Aquarium

June 1, 2015

CHICAGO – Shedd Aquarium, a leader in animal care and welfare, announced today that one of its Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), Piquet (pee-KEHT), gave birth to a healthy calf at approximately 12:10 a.m. on June 1.  Both mother and calf appear to be doing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by Shedd’s animal care staff for several months.

Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface, took its first breath, and began to swim and bond with its mother. The gender of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff estimates the calf to be approximately 3-feet in length and weigh approximately 28 pounds.

This marks the second successful pregnancy for Shedd’s 27-year-old female dolphin, Piquet (pee-KEHT), whose name means “female of small stature” in the language of the Tlingit. She gave birth successfully to her first calf in 2012 – Sagu, a now three-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin who is doing well and thriving at Shedd. With fewer than 20 Pacific white-sided dolphins in accredited North American zoological facilities, this birth is significant for the population as well as to the scientific and marine mammal communities dedicated to better understanding the reproductive and neonatal biology and behaviors about the rarely studied species.

“We are thrilled about the birth; however, a calf must reach several milestones in its first days and months, such as continuing to bond with its mother, learning to nurse, and later, learning to feed independently,” said Tim Binder, executive vice president of animal care for Shedd Aquarium. “Animal care and animal health staffs are excited and hopeful and are using the knowledge gained through previous births to help monitor and ensure mother and calf are meeting these important milestones.”

As one of only four accredited institutions in North America caring for Pacific white-sided dolphins, Shedd works cooperatively with other aquariums to manage the genetic diversity of the population as an important part of responsible animal care. Piquet’s calf was conceived naturally through a breeding partnership with Miami Seaquarium in Florida. A male dolphin at the Seaquarium, Lii (LEE-ee), is the sire. 

“We have dedicated our lives to providing expert care for our dolphins, and the strong bonds our team members have built with Piquet over the last two decades have really allowed us to best understand and prepare for her specific care according to individual needs,” said Binder.

For more than 20 years, the aquarium has participated in collaborative efforts including 15 published projects that help the scientific community better understand the hearing and acoustics, social behaviors, reproductive physiology, immune systems and response to the aquatic environment, energetics and more.

Pacific white-sided dolphins are extremely difficult to study in the wild because they are a pelagic or open-water species. Much of what is known about bottlenose dolphins comes from studies that are impossible to duplicate for Pacific white-sided dolphins due to this. Additionally, because Pacific white-sided dolphins are so abundant in the wild, there has not been a need for further research aimed at immediate preservation or conservation of the species.

The gestation period for Pacific white-sided dolphins is known to be just about 12 months. Breeding tends to occur between April and July annually, although calves have been born at other times of the year.

Because Shedd Aquarium is committed to providing the best animal care, both mother and calf will be off public view until this first critical period has ended. While most of the Abbott Oceanarium will remain open and accessible to the public, only the Secluded Bay habitat will be temporarily closed. Viewing of Shedd’s sea otters, sea lions, penguins and beluga whales will remain open and accessible. Ongoing updates will be available on Shedd’s website at www.sheddaquarium.org, along with updates on Shedd’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

More information on how Shedd works to preserve and protect these beautiful animals can be found on the aquarium’s website, www.sheddaquarium.org/Animals--Care/Protecting-Dolphins/.

About Pacific white-sided dolphins

Found in the cool waters of the North Pacific Ocean, Pacific white-sided dolphins are distinguished by their black backs, gray sides and white bellies. A suspender-like stripe runs down each side. Nicknamed “lags” after their unwieldy scientific name, Pacific white-sided dolphins are known for their amazing aerial abilities and are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean, clocking in at 25 miles per hour.

The names of Shedd’s Pacific white-sided dolphins are Tlingit, the endangered language of an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, specifically southeast Alaska and western Canada.

NOTE:    High-resolution photos and video of Piquet and calf are available for download at the following link, as well as additional fact sheets about Pacific white-sided dolphins and births: https://backup.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8d6a65885c616d779ea0  
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/ Sam Cejtin

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