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Shedd’s Daring Dolphin Calf Gets a Name


What do you get a Dolphin calf for the holidays? A name!

After a full week of voting, Cetacean fans everywhere have spoken. The name for the newest member of Shedd Aquarium’s marine mammal family, a male Pacific White-Sided dolphin calf born on June 1, 2015, was revealed on December 16 during a live broadcast from the aquarium’s Secluded Bay habitat.

Nearly 3,500 votes were cast during the naming contest, and Makoa (Ma-ko-ah)—meaning ‘fearless’ in Hawaiian—was the clear winner over another exotic favorite, Kolohe (Ko-low-hey), meaning ‘rascal’.




Photo Credits: Brenna Hernandez / Video Credit: Sam Cejtin

 The six-month-old Makoa, who has nearly doubled in size since his birth and weighs a healthy 108 pounds, continues to achieve important milestones, such as bonding with mom Piquet, increasing in size, eating some whole fish, and interacting with trainers and fellow dolphins. As one of the most adventurous calves to have ever been born at Shedd, he has certainly lived up to his new name.

“Naming the Dolphin calf is Shedd’s way of welcoming him into the family, while also raising awareness about this fascinating open-water species that is extremely difficult to study in the wild,” said Tim Binder, executive vice president of animal care.

“With only four accredited North-American institutions caring for less than 20 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, our understanding of this taxon is very limited, making any predictions regarding the resiliency of the species or disturbances in their native habitat very difficult. Observing the animals in human care increases our understanding of their biology, behavior and sensitivity to environmental change, allowing us to inform protection management strategies for those in the wild, as well as to provide better care for the animals in accredited zoos and aquariums.”

For more than 20 years, Shedd Aquarium has participated in collaborative efforts that help the scientific community better understand the hearing, acoustics, social behavior, reproductive physiology and immune system of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, providing a window into this breathtaking species.

According to Binder, “Makoa will be an ambassador for Dolphins everywhere, helping the aquarium raise awareness about the importance of research and conservation, as well as furthering Shedd’s mission of connecting people to the living world, and inspiring them to make a difference.”

Found in the cool waters of the North Pacific Ocean, ranging from the South China Sea and the Baja California Peninsula to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins are distinguished by their black backs, gray sides and white bellies, as well as the black stripe that runs down on each side from above the eye to below the dorsal fin.

Nicknamed “lags” after their unwieldy scientific name, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins are known for their amazing aerial abilities, jumping 15-20 feet in the air. They are shaped like torpedoes, and are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean, clocking in at 25 miles per hour.

Feeding on squid and small schooling fish, adult Dolphins can grow to be 6 to 7 feet long, and usually weigh between 220-300 pounds, with 10-20 percent body fat that keeps them warm in the cool waters.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).