The sex life and reproduction of a dolphin is quite fascinating and differs from many other mammals in a few ways. Dolphins have been found to most often reproduce during the spring, with a male-female courtship ritual playing a large part in dolphin dating. To copulate the male dolphin nudges the female dolphin from behind with his sex organ for several minutes and then mounts her from behind. After this, dolphin mating is about the same as any other mammalian mating.
However to many people’s surprise, dolphins are among the most sexual animals on earth and are not monogamous. When aroused, a dolphin male may even mate several times an hour, often with the same female but not always. Due to the fact that dolphins are not monogamous, dolphin mothers usually rely on other female dolphins which act as “midwives” to help take care of and protect them and their calves.
After eleven or twelve months, female dolphins give birth to their young with the assistance of another female dolphin or “midwife”. Birth can happen anywhere and when it does the pod will often be seen surrounding her protectively while she is in labor as a way to defend the mother and calve and fend off any predators such as sharks who may be thinking about picking up a quick meal.
Baby dolphins are born tail first to avoid drowning, and are usually single births, with the exception of a few smaller dolphin species that have been known to give birth to two calves. During the birthing process, dolphin mothers help the calves to reach the surface by swimming beneath them and then gently lifting upward to get their first breath. Afterwards, the calves typically try to feed by finding the mammary glands located in the sacs toward the mother’s rear. Nursing has been known to generally continue anywhere from twelve to eighteen months.
Calves must eat quickly, as it is important for them to get back up to the surface to breathe. It is because of this that unlike most mammals that are equipped with a way to suckle their mother’s milk, dolphin mothers instead have specialized muscle contractions that squirt milk into the calves’ mouth. Dolphin calves grow very quickly on the high fat of their mother’s milk, and in some species have even been known to double in weight within a mere two weeks.