Fun Facts about Dolphins

Dolphins are one of the most loved creatures in the ocean. They are known for being playful and acrobatic, intelligent and social. But how much do you really know about dolphins? With nearly 50 species of dolphins swimming around the oceans and rivers, these fun facts will show you how diverse and clever dolphins really are!

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Spinner Dolphins
Spinner Dolphins

How many Dolphin Species are there?

Believe it or not, there are around 49 species of dolphins which can be found in both freshwater and seawater. This includes several species of porpoises which are closely related to dolphins. Compared to a dolphin, porpoises generally are smaller, have a less streamlined body and a shorter snout. They also have different shaped teeth.

River Dolphins – A Not so Fun Dolphin Fact

There are 5 species of river or freshwater dolphins which can be found in South America and Asia. Sadly, their future is bleak. Due to pollution, boats and climate change (the rivers are getting too hot), all river dolphin species are endangered or critically endangered. One species, the Yangtze River dolphin is thought to be extinct.

And the Smallest Dolphin?

Hector’s dolphin, or a sub species of Hector’s Dolphin called Maui Dolphins are the smallest dolphins in the world. Found around New Zealand they are 1.2 – 1.6 metres long. They are striking looking dolphins with light grey bodies and black tails, dorsal fin, flippers and face.

There are Pink Dolphins too!

If it’s a colourful dolphin you’re after, look no further than the pink dolphin also known as the Amazon River dolphin. These spectacular looking dolphins are only found in fresh water around in Amazon and Orinoco Rivers of South America.

Orca Whale
Orca Whale

Did you know Killer Whales are Dolphins?

That’s right, just like whale sharks aren’t whales, killer whales aren’t whales either – they are a dolphin. They are the biggest dolphin species reaching 8m long and weighing 6 tons.

How Old do Dolphins get?

Dolphins can live to be up to 60 years of age.

How Fast can Dolphins Swim?

If you are lucky enough to swim with a dolphin, know that they are slowing down to a crawl to match our pace! Dolphins can swim at up to 60kph (37 mph) but their cruising speed is around 15kph (9 mph). For the record, the average person swims at 2 – 3kph if they know how to swim.

Dolphins are Highly Intelligent

Dolphins are known for their smarts and are considered one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They exhibit complex problem-solving abilities, self-awareness, and can even understand and use symbols. They are up there with chimps and orangutans as the smarties of the animal kingdom.

Dolphin Jumping
Dolphin Acrobatics

Acrobatic Swimmers

As well as being fast, streamlined swimmers, dolphins are also known for their jumping and spinning. While their acrobatics look like fun to us, it serves other purposes including communication, avoiding predators, cleaning, impressing possible mates and hunting. And it is also seen as a form of play.

What do Dolphins Eat?

Dolphins have a varied diet which includes fish, squid, jellyfish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Dolphins do have teeth which they use for getting hold of their food but not chewing it. Depending on the species, dolphins can have up to 280 teeth. Their teeth all look the same and aren’t replaced if they fall out.

Dolphins use a Built in Radar System

Dolphins use echolocation to navigate and locate prey. They emit sound waves and listen for the echoes to determine the location, size, and shape of objects in their environment.

How Often do Dolphins Breath?

Dolphins are mammals which means they need to get oxygen from the air rather than extracting it from the water with gills (which is what fish do). Dolphins will usually breathe 4 or 5 times a minute through their blowhole, but they can hold their breath for several minutes if they want to stay underwater.

Common Dolphins
Common Dolphins

Do we know why Dolphins Ride Bow Waves?

If you are on a cruise, one of the best sights is seeing dolphins swimming and jumping at the front of the boat. But why? The answer is, we don’t really know. It could be for fun, it could be a form of fishing. One thing is for sure, it is a learned behaviour as dolphins have been around a lot longer than fast moving boats. Whatever the reason, it is great fun to watch!

How Deep can Dolphins Swim?

No one knows for sure, but a bottlenose dolphin was recorded diving to a depth of 300m. Killer whales, the biggest of all dolphins, can dive to 1000m deep.

Social Creatures

Dolphins are highly social animals and often travel in groups called pods. These pods can consist of a few individuals or several hundred dolphins, depending on the species. Sometimes dolphins get together in super pods of hundreds or thousands.

Communication Skills

Dolphins communicate with each other using a variety of clicks, whistles, and body movements. They have signature whistles that may serve as a unique identifier for individual dolphins. If you swim with dolphins, you might hear them clicking and squeaking at each other.

Dolphin Swim
Bottlenosed Dolphins with Calf
dolphin communication
Bottlenosed Dolphin Communication

Maternal Bonding

Mother dolphins form strong bonds with their calves, and the young dolphins stay close to their mothers for several years. Mothers are known to teach their offspring hunting techniques, vocalisations and even some play behaviours.

Tool Use

Some dolphins, such as the bottlenose dolphin, have been observed using tools. For example, they may use sponges to protect their rostrums (snouts) while foraging on the ocean floor. How clever is that!

Dolphins can be Half Asleep

Dolphins sleep with one hemisphere of their brain at a time, allowing them to maintain awareness of their surroundings and control basic bodily functions while resting. This sleep adaptation is crucial for avoiding predators.

Positive Interactions with Humans

Dolphins are known for their friendly interactions with humans, and stories of dolphins helping stranded swimmers or guiding boats to safety are well-documented. These positive interactions have contributed to the fascination and love people have for these marine mammals.

Steve Klein
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