Young whales and dolphins really relax, feed, and sleep as their mother swims in front of them, dragging them along in her slipstream—a technique known as echelon swimming. The mother will also sleep on the go at these times. She can't stop swimming for the first several weeks of a newborn's existence. When she does stop, it is usually because food is available close by.
As they get older, calves learn how to swim independently but they often travel with their mothers for another year or more. During this time they continue to eat and sleep while their mother teaches them how to find food and avoid predators. When the young whale or dolphin is ready to leave home on its own, its mother will sometimes help it by stopping swimming.
Eventually the calf learns not to follow its mother any longer and begins to swim alone. While traveling alone is safer for the baby than when with its mother, there are times when the separation makes the calf feel anxious or lonely. This is why young whales and dolphins will sometimes come back to their mothers even after they have left home for good.
When they return home, the mother will recognize her child by its smell or sound. If other whales happen to be around, they will usually ignore the calf since it is still young and cannot defend itself. But if the mother finds herself in danger, she will tell the others about it using acoustic signals. They will then surround the mother and son or daughter and protect them until she recovers.
While some shark species do require continual swimming, this is not true for all sharks. Some sharks, like the nurse shark, have spiracles that drive water across their gills, allowing them to remain immobile. Sharks do not sleep like humans, but rather alternate between busy and resting times. During their resting periods, the muscles in their bodies shut down completely.
Sharks are fish, so they need to breathe just like other fish or animals do. However, due to their predatory nature, there is no need for sharks to breathe through their nose like we do. Rather, they use special cells on their tongue and in their throat to filter oxygen from the water that flows past them while they sleep. This method of breathing is called "buccal pumping".
Although sleeping is not necessary for sharks' survival, they still need time to rest between hunts. They find shelters above-water during these times that allow sunlight into their eyes and give them a chance to catch their breaths. When not sheltering, sharks are searching for food or predators. Although they cannot flee like other animals can, they have very good senses - including smell, taste, and touch - that help them avoid danger.
Sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years and have evolved many features that help them survive in their harsh environment.
Baby dolphins, known as calves, are born after up to a year in the mother's womb. Calves can start swimming in their mother's womb as early as 9 weeks. At first they are completely dependent on her for survival, but over time they learn to feed themselves. Although scientists don't know exactly when or how often this happens, most calves are now born between 8 and 12 months old.
Calves are born with gray or white coloration, although some adults have colored skin due to xanthophylls found in fish oil. They also usually have black spots that become more visible as they get older. Scientists think these marks help keep predators away from the calf.
Although they look like small versions of their parents, newborn calves are actually dependent on their mothers for protection until they reach sexual maturity at about 10 years old. This is why scientists believe it is important for calves to stay in the womb for so long - so they can receive all the benefits their mothers could provide if they were still alive today.
Whales and dolphins are creatures that breathe air into their lungs in the same way that we do. They cannot breathe underwater like fish because they lack gills. They can take breathes while swimming or resting under water by exposing only the top of their heads to the air. This is called "spontaneous respiration."
Although they can't breathe underwater, dolphins still need oxygen to live. They get it from breathing water vapor into their bodies like we do when we breathe. As with our breaths, their watersquirts contain nitrogen (78% less oxygen than the atmosphere but more than fish) as well as other gases such as carbon dioxide. Dolphins exhale through their blowholes containing this recycled air.
Unlike us, who need to breathe regularly every 20 minutes, dolphins can go several hours without breathing if they choose to. This gives them time to eat, sleep, play, and find shelter from predators all without stopping to breathe!
Dolphins also use their tongues to smell what's around them. Their tongues are very sensitive to touch and can detect particles as small as 2 microns from a distance. That's about one-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair.
Finally, dolphins communicate with sound. They have loud voices similar to ours but they also use whistles, clicks, and songs to let others know where they are and how they're feeling.
When a dolphin slips into deep slumber, only one half of its brain relaxes at a time, while the other half remains vigilant, keeping an eye out for predators and preventing drowning. They can stay attentive and awake for 15 days or longer because of this adaptive habit. A similar strategy is used by soldiers on night missions and astronauts in space.
Dolphins also appear to have some control over their body temperature. When sleeping off the beach in the sun, they will often raise only their exposed head above the surface of the water to breathe. This method of cooling down quickly is useful when you need to wake up quickly too!
Finally, dolphins may sleep with one eye open to help them see better. Although this behavior has not been proven scientifically, there are reports of dolphins waking up after sleeping for several hours with just one eye open to take advantage of some much-needed rest before resuming their journey.
These are just some examples of why dolphins sleep so much; there are many more reasons why this amazing creature needs such a large amount of rest!