Do Dolphins Lay Eggs?

Most animals in the ocean, such as fish, lay eggs. But what about dolphins? Do dolphins lay eggs?

You might know that dolphins are mammals, and most mammals do not lay eggs. And, even though dolphins live in the ocean, they are not fish! Dolphins, unlike fish, give birth to their babies live. In fact, there are only two types of mammals that lay eggs and they are the platypus and echidna. 

So if dolphins do not lay eggs, how do dolphins give birth? 

Unlike fish, who breathe through gills, dolphins breathe air through their lungs, just like people do. Dolphins have to make trips to the surface of the sea to get air. Additionally, dolphins, like all mammals, have a bit of hair on their bodies.

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Mammals are the only members of the animal kingdom that have hair, so fish do not have any hair on their bodies. Dolphins are also warm-blooded, whereas fish are cold-blooded. But there is one more thing that separates fish from these ocean mammals – dolphins give birth live! 

Most fish lay eggs. Female fish will release thousands of eggs at a time, placing them into the open water, where male fish will fertilize them. The fish eggs will then hatch and the baby fish will grow and live without any help from their parents. A lot of these baby fish are sadly eaten by other larger animals, but some will make it to adulthood, where they will repeat the cycle and lay eggs of their own.  

Dolphins, on the other hand, give birth to their babies live. Female dolphins are pregnant for between 10 months and 18 months, depending on the species. Dolphins will give birth to a single baby at a time. Dolphins give birth to their babies live, and unlike most mammals, who give birth to their offspring headfirst, dolphins give birth to their young tail first. This is because a dolphin’s labor can last hours, and by giving birth tail first, the risk of the dolphin calf drowning is greatly reduced.  

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Once the baby dolphin is born, they are completely dependent on their mother. Like all mammals, dolphin mothers produce milk that their baby drinks, until they are old enough to only eat fish. Dolphins will usually drink their mother’s milk for the first 2 to 3 years of their lives.

This milk is richer and fattier than the milk of a human or even a cow. This allows dolphin calves to grow fairly quickly. A dolphin mother will help teach her young how to hunt for fish when they are only a few months old, and then they will gradually get more and more comfortable fishing for food on their own. 

Since dolphins give live birth, all dolphins, like all humans, have belly buttons! The belly button (in both humans and dolphins) is where the umbilical cord connects to the placenta in the mother’s womb. When the dolphin gives birth, the umbilical cord breaks away and the baby dolphin is left with a belly button. 

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Female dolphins will usually give birth to their first calf when they are about 8 years old, but dolphins can start breeding at about 6 years old. Depending on the species of dolphins, a female will usually have a baby dolphin every 1 to 6 years. A mother dolphin will always completely wean her calf before she gives birth to another baby.  

A dolphin calf will stay with their mother for many years, even after they have been weaned from the milk and are able to get their own food. A dolphin will usually stay with their mother until they are about 5 to 10 years old.

Mother dolphins are great teachers and put a lot of time into teaching their young everything they need to survive, such as how to hunt for fish, how to avoid dangers, how to interact with other dolphins, and how to find their way around the ocean. 

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Common Dolphin Mother & Calf
Common Dolphin Mother & Calf

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Do whales lay eggs?

Whales are marine mammals just like dolphins. This means, that like dolphins, whales do not lay eggs, and instead give birth to their young live. Whales also have umbilical cords, which means that they have bellybuttons, just like dolphins. Mother whales will also feed their young with milk and they may do this for up to 2 years. Then it takes about 6 years for a baby whale to be a fully grown adult. 

A Humpback mother & calf being protected by a large male escort in Maui, Hawaii.
A Humpback mother & calf being protected by a large male escort in Maui, Hawaii.