ISSN 1063-0740, Russian Journal of Marine Biology, 2009, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 53–59. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2009.
Original Russian Text © V.V. Krasnova, V.M. Bel’kovich, A.D. Chernetskii, 2009, published in Biologiya Morya.
, is the most
wide-spread cetacean species in the Arctic and the only
species that permanently resides in the White Sea .
Long-term studies of beluga have shown that these
marine mammals have well pronounced social behav-
ior. The beluga has rather complex forms of social life
and tight individual interrelations among members of a
The structure of beluga communities is relatively
steady; this stability is based on females and their off-
spring [4, 11]. Females are believed to stay in the
maternal pod for life. After reaching maturity, males
leave their maternal pod and join a pod of adult males
[4, 6]. Several summer reproductive aggregations are
formed in certain places within the species range during
the breeding season [3, 26]. Aggregations like these
serve for reproduction and raising offspring, they also
play an important part in the formation of diverse forms
of social interactions among belugas . Animals can
get together and contact one another only in these
aggregations. Calves learn their ﬁrst behavioral skills,
establish individual social relations with other mem-
bers of the pod, and obtain a certain hierarchical status.
However some features of belugas' social behavior still
remain unstudied. The general pattern of formation of
calf behavior still remains a gap in our knowledge.
Observations on summer aggregations of belugas at
Cape Beluzhii, Solovetskii Island in the White Sea
allowed us to ﬁll this gap.
The ﬁrst months after birth are known to be the most
important in an animal’s life, for the basis of behavior
is laid in this period. Any changes in behavior at this
stage are much more signiﬁcant than ones that take
place during the rest of its life . In this connection,
the main task of our work was to describe the stages of
formation of behavior during the ﬁrst 2 months in the
life of beluga calves.
During the most recent decade, we have observed
the rapid growth of ecotourism activity at Cape
Beluzhii, caused by the popularity of the Solovetsky
Islands as a natural and historical monument. The
development of ecotourism, in turn, intensiﬁed the sea
trafﬁc in the area of summer aggregation of beluga
whales. Having collected observations on belugas
around the Solovetsky Islands for many years (1995–
2007), we tried to analyze the human impact on the for-
mation of the calves' behavior.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The studies were carried out in the area of the belu-
gas' reproductive aggregation at Cape Beluzhii,
Solovetsky Island in the White Sea, during the period
from June to August in 1995–2001 and 2003–2007. The
size of this aggregation was about 70–100 individuals
. Belugas were present in the studied area every
day, except for in stormy weather. The time of atten-
dance of the observed area near Cape Beluzhii by ani-
mals depended mainly on tidal periods; therefore, ani-
ZOOLOGY OF VERTEBRATES
Formation of Behavior in the White Sea Beluga Calf,
, during Early Postnatal Ontogenesis
V. V. Krasnova, V. M. Bel’kovich, and A. D. Chernetskii
Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 117997 Russia
Received September 18, 2008
—The periods of development individual behavior in beluga calves are described. During these peri-
ods, calves form locomotor skills and interrelations with other individuals, and this determines the overall social
structure of a pod. The formation of behavior in White Sea beluga calves passes through a number of stages.
New types of social interactions arose in the following sequence: the imprinting period, the ﬁrst abandoning of
the mother without contact with other members of the pod and accumulation of new locomotive elements, ﬁrst
contacts with other young-of-the-year calves, and the complication of interaction types through game activities.
Calves usually formed pairs with coevals or elder calves that possessed a richer locomotor repertoire. New
motions appeared as a result of imitation of adult animals. These periods do not have distinct terms and depend
on the individual qualities of the calves. Some changes in the belugas' behavior were seen under the conditions
of the active development of managed ecotourism in the area around Solovetsky Island, the animals showed
adaptation to the presence of man.
: beluga, White Sea, reproductive aggregations, young-of-the-year, calves, behavior.