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Beluga Calf Growth Right on Track at Shedd Aquarium

Genetic tests from the afterbirth have also revealed which beluga whale fathered the calf, born in July

August 09, 2019

A grey beluga calf rests atop his mother.

A recent health check-up with the new beluga calf at Shedd Aquarium revealed that the calf is growing at an incredibly healthy rate. In fact, the young cetacean has put on 50 pounds in the first 30 days since he was born in early July. As astounding as it sounds, this quick weight gain is exactly what animal caretakers hope to see, as beluga calves need to quickly build blubber and fat reserves to insulate them from the icy water temperatures through which they swim.

This weight gain is most apparent in the calf’s shape, as the fetal folds that were present after its birth begin to fill out and disappear.

Mauyak (MY-yak), the calf’s mother, has experienced a change since giving birth as well. The 38-year-old mom’s caloric intake has nearly tripled. Ahead of giving birth, she was eating approximately 37 pounds of food per day and that has now grown to approximately 91 pounds per day. The increase in diet allows Mauyak to produce the fat and nutrient-rich milk that is fueling her calf’s rapid growth.

The aquarium also has the results of genetic tests, performed with samples of Mauyak’s after birth, which confirmed that Aurek, a 2,200-pound beluga at Shedd, is the father of the calf. Beluga fathers have no parental role or attachment to their calves, and it will be several months until Aurek and the calf are introduced. The calf remains with mom and some of the other adult female belugas in Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium as it continues to grow and develop.

BACKGROUND: Shedd Aquarium, a leader in animal care, welcomed a beluga calf on July 3 to Mauyak, a 38-year-old beluga and experienced mother. The male calf is cruising through important developmental milestones including gaining weight, slipstreaming and navigating the habitat, bonding with mom and interacting with other belugas at Shedd and with caretakers.

VISUALS: Photos of the beluga calf can be viewed and downloaded here:

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez