If dolphins are mammals and all mammals have hair, why aren't dolphins hairy?

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When it comes to being mammal, dolphins fit the bill in all respects: they give birth to live young and nurse them, they're warm-blooded, they've got lungs and breathe air (they're also descendants of terrestrial mammals from the Cetartiodactyla clade, which also includes pigs, cows, hippos and camels, among others, and left life on land some 50 million years ago). If you've gotten to pet one at an aquarium, though, you've noticed that dolphins lack the one thing all other mammals have: hair.

What gives? How come they get to be in the mammal club?

Well kids, get ready for this. Dolphins are born with mustaches.

Yes, mustaches. (It's a fact that Gillette has yet to exploit). Now, I'm not talking about a full-blown Fu Manchu or even a decent handlebar, but a rim of short hairs around their rostrum (their snout). The "˜stache helps newborn dolphins locate and feel their mother for the first few days of nursing and falls off after a week or so because of a natural depilatory process.

Rest assured that I am searching for pictures of a dolphin in all its mustachioed glory and will post them when I get my hands on them.

If you've got a burning question that you'd like to see answered here, shoot me an email at flossymatt (at) gmail.com. Twitter users can also make nice with me and ask me questions there. Be sure to give me your name and location (and a link, if you want) so I can give you a little shout out.

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July 21, 2008 - 6:01am
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