By Naomi Nix
3:46 PM CDT, October 23, 2012
On Friday the Shedd Aquarium will debut the latest addition to its whale family: an eight-week-old female Beluga Whale.
Her mother, Mauyak, gave birth on Aug. 27 to the calf, then 4 feet, 6 inches long and weighing 130 pounds. The calf has grown about six inches and gained about 85 pounds since then, according to the aquarium.
"We are really pleased to see how the calf is developing," said Ken Ramirez, the aquarium's executive vice president of animal care and training, at a Tuesday media preview. The baby whale could be seen gliding through the water attached to her mom as she nursed.
Mauyak has given birth to two other calves, Miki and Qannik. Their father, Naluark, is on loan to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.
The calf has achieved a number of developmental milestones, including bonding with her mother, nursing on a regular basis and learning how to be comfortable with other Beluga Whales or divers in her habitat.
She has even developed a personality, including a fondness for looking at other whales and dolphins through gates in her habitats.
"At this point she is very playful," Ramirez said. "She is very curious."
Beluga whales are native to the Arctic Circle and live in areas like Canada, Russia and Alaska, Ramirez said.
The aquarium has yet to name the calf but plans to in the coming months as staff members learn more about her personality. The name will likely reflect the Inuit tradition, a language spoken in Canada, said Ramirez.
"We usually come up with a name between the three- and six-month mark," said Ramirez. "We often try to pick names that have some significance to the place where the animals come from."
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