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Searching for Dolphin Hair

By Sam Ridgway

Many haven’t a clue.
Others learn it in school.
I read it in a dictionary.
All mammals have hair.
We are mammals and dolphins are too.
How do dolphins pass this mammal test?
Some say dolphins have whiskers: can this be true?
I am a veterinarian, a research doctor too. I should be able to find whiskers if anyone can.
First, I remove my gloves. Then, I touch the dolphin gently with my fingertips.
I touch the dolphin all over the smooth body. What do I discover? Why, his skin is as slick as an olive!
But, wait! I see. Look with me there on the snout: five small pits but not even a single hair.
We, you and I, have learned an anatomical fact about these graceful mammals of the sea! Think about this a little more.
When the baby dolphin is in his mother’s womb, tiny whiskers fill each of the small pits on his snout; yet, after the baby
slides out of his mother’s body to swim beside her in the sea, his little head moves back and forth. As he swims, the water against his skin pulls on the soft hairs and, soon, they all fall out.
Even after the baby dolphin grows, not a whisker shows.
I shall tell you why: the hair root in each of the pits remains hidden inside.
So, have you discovered why dolphins have hair that they do not show?
For those who still wonder why and have nary a clue, then you must think:
When you want to swim super fast, cover up your hair!


In the four pictures above you can see the stages of dolphin hair. Figure A shows the hair root that all dolphins have buried in the skin. Figures B and C show with arrows the hairs that stick out around the time of birth. Figure D shows the dark pits that each contain the hair root below.
Thanks to Jeanette Ridgway, PhD for help with the words.