A beluga mother typically nurses her offspring for 18 months. At that point, the calf’s teeth are very small or non-existent. The mother can continue nursing up to thirty months, until the young is able to consume solid prey. Belugas’ teeth are fully developed by the age of two. They are not used to chew or tear prey, but rather to catch the prey that are sucked in and swallowed whole.

Beluga feed near the seabed, preying on fish such as capelin, herring, smelt, and sand lance; eels; as well as invertebrates such as squid and crustaceans. They also hunt in the water column near the surface, or by treading water against the current. These various feeding and hunting techniques will be transmitted to the calf mainly by its mother. This is probably why young belugas stay with their mothers for long periods, sometimes up to sexual maturity. In the summer range, females form large communities in which they care for newborns and young. These communities gravitate to traditional territories in which they specialize to find the necessary resources for their needs and those of their young.

Learn more:

About how whales feed

St. Lawrence beluga

Whale Q&A - 8/11/2015

Camille Bégin Marchand

Camille Bégin Marchand has been employed for GREMM from 2013 to 2018. Although she began as a naturalist at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre, Camille’s interest in scientific writing would later land her a position on the Whales Online editorial team. With a passion for biology and a deep affection for the region, she is also pursuing a Master’s degree in forest sciences in collaboration with the Tadoussac Bird Observatory (OOT).

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