Recently I had the chance to visit SeaWorld in Orlando for the first time. Of course, SeaWorld is a famous place, and I had heard lots about it and had seen endless advertisements for it on television. So I thought that I had a good idea of what it would be like. I was expecting amazing marine mammal performances (check) and fantastic roller-coasters (check) and lots of yummy food (check). [Disclaimer: I did not actually RIDE the fantastic roller-coasters, but they sure looked like fun from my vantage point on the ground underneath them. Especially the Manta!]
What I was NOT expecting was the chance to get up close to so many kinds of critters and birds that live in our oceans. It was fascinating. I loved how there were naturalists stationed at all the habitats, giving talks about how the animals lived. I spent a lot of time watching the sea lions at the Pacific Point Preserve and learning about their behavior.
The up-close experience that I enjoyed most, though, was the Dolphin Nursery. It was a very large pool that you could walk almost completely around, separated from the dolphin moms and babies by only a narrow walkway. The naturalist explained that SeaWorld makes its own custom blend of sea water from scratch, and that water engineers are on call day and night to make sure that the water is always just right for the dolphins.
But even though they live 24×7 in a saltwater environment, dolphins cannot DRINK saltwater – and there is no fresh water in the ocean. So dolphins must get all of their water from the fish that they eat. I was surprised to find that fishes vary in water content, and even more surprised that dolphin moms know how to find them in the wild!
In addition to being salty, ocean water is also cold. So dolphins need a thick layer of blubber to insulate their bodies and maintain their body temperature. The dolphin moms and babies especially need to build up this layer, so they need to eat fatty fish. Add that to the list of the things that a good dolphin mom needs to know – what kinds of fish have the most fat, and where can you find them?
The naturalist emphasized that dolphins are mammals just like humans. That got me thinking about how much more we have in common than just warm blood. Dolphin moms have to find the right kind of food to keep themselves and their babies healthy, they have to communicate and cooperate with others in their group, and they have to do it all in an environment that requires serious adaptations. Human moms have to do the same things. And sometimes our environment requires that we adapt, accept the limitations of a new environment, and maximize the benefits of it, just like the dolphin moms have done so successfully.
So even though Mother’s Day is not for a few weeks, here’s an early shout-out to all of the moms on land and in the oceans. Where would we be without mothers who are up to the challenges of dealing with whatever the world sends their way? Swim on, girls.
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