What do we know about dolphins? Most of us have seen them do antics on television and some might have seen their live shows. But do you know that there are many dolphin facts that make them fascinating creatures? Here, we will find out why dolphins are loved fishes and how you can interact with them.
Dolphin facts that will make you fall in love with them
From being the best nappers to supporting the US navy, dolphins have surprised us time and again. Many of us still don’t know what makes these fishes so special. Here is the list that will tell you why dolphins are one of the best creatures in the marine world:
1. They can beat you in napping
Dolphins are fishes so it is pretty obvious that they can breathe underwater. They don’t need to swim up to get fresh air, but how do they sleep without getting drowned? Well, dolphins are great at napping and they can nap longer than you do. They rest one hemisphere of their minds for around 20 minutes at one time and that’s how they take naps many times throughout the day. What is fascinating about this dolphin fact is that they can swim even when one part of their brain is napping!
2. They click and whistle
Every living being has a way of communicating among their own kinds. One of the charming dolphin facts is that they talk to each other with several vocalizations. Dolphins talk to each other underwater and they click and whistle while doing so.
Dolphins produce loud burst-like noises whenever they are excited. They can also do that when aggressive and shooing off a nearby shark. Female ones are known to produce burst-pulse to scold their offspring for wrong behavior! It other words, dolphins are much like humans when it comes to expressing but way cuter than us.
3. Dolphin language is a mystery
Several marine scientists have recorded noises made by dolphins but they have been able to decode what they say. If you are aware of animal facts, you’d know that many people can understand and communicate in different animal languages. But what dolphins say to each other is still unknown.
Scientists have still not been able to break down individual units of sounds that dolphins make. They are researching links between different animal vocalizations and doing behavior studies to understand it better. Hopefully, with the help of new technologies, high frequency, and algorithms, scientists will be able to figure this out.
4. They navigate with echolocation
Do you know that dolphins follow echolocations to navigate their way? Echolocations are biological sonar that enhances their way of communication. For example, if one dolphin emits a series of clicks, it clears echoes in the surrounding. Based on such sounds, other dolphin can judge where the dolphin (the one that was communicating) is. They can also determine the size and shape of objects nearby with the intensity of echoes that happen. Echolocation can also help them stay away from predators or catches small fishes to eat.
5. They are friends among each other
One of the amazing dolphin facts is that they make friends just the way we do. These aquatic animals not only talk to each other but also socialize. In 2015, scientists at the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute had put out a research about the dolphin networks. They spent more than six years to track 200 bottlenose dolphins at the Indian River Lagoon of Florida and concluded that they make friends with each other.
Dolphins don’t socialize with any random one of their kind. They have segregated groups as we have, and that’s they move about together. They want to enjoy the same company they have and that’s what fascinates us all the more.
6. Every dolphin can respond to their name
Of course, dolphins don’t swim around with name tags, but as per dolphin facts, they have names that they call out through unique whistles. Scientists feel that dolphins give themselves signature whistles and maintain that all through their lives. The female ones teach their little ones to whistle when they’re in their stomachs. They use the signature whistles to talk to each other and can whistle the same even if they meet decades later.
7. Dolphin facts state 44 species
Most of us know the bottlenose dolphins as they are recognizable. But there are 44 dolphin species in total. Most of them survive in tropical and temperate oceans. However, some prefer colder oceans and rivers.
Depending on what species they are, the behavior and physical attributes differ from one another. The biggest dolphin species is called the Orca or Killer Whale, which can be almost 30 feet long. Smallest dolphins will be around 3 feet long only.
8. They don’t chew food with their teeth
If you have seen happy dolphins, you’ve noticed their tiny teeth. According to dolphin facts, they don’t use the chompers for chewing food. Teeth help them catch their prey like squid, small fishes, or crustaceans. When they grab them with the teeth, they swallow them all at once.
The body of a dolphin goes through a digestion process in their stomach. They have different chambers in their stomach and there is one only for digestion. Also, there is one chamber that stores food before getting digested.
9. They give birth to one calf
Although the species of the dolphin matters, most of them typically have only one calf. Dolphins carry their babies anywhere from 9 to 17 months and then give birth. It is fascinating how calves first push out its tail rather than the head. It helps them prevent drowning during the process. Female dolphins nurse their babies for almost two years. A calf stays with the mother for 1 to 7 years, and then move on to mate and have their own calves.
10. Quick skin regeneration
If you have swum with dolphins, you might have seen how their skin looks super smooth. There is an interesting reason for this – the epidermis or outer layer of the dolphin’s skin gets sloughed off and replace with newer skill cells all the time. It can happen every two hours and that’s the minimum amount of time. As their skin regenerates so quickly, they always have smooth skin.
11. US Navy and dolphin connection
Dolphins are smart and friendly creatures, but they can also be trained. Naval Warfare Systems Command and Navy Marine Mammal Program, San Diego’s Space, train bottlenose dolphins, and sea lions to help the US Navy.
Earlier, the military has taken the help of dolphins during the conflicts in Persian Gulf and Vietnam. Due to intelligence, echolocation skills, and speed, dolphins can be easily trainers to find enemies. They have also helped to locate underwater mines, guard nuclear arsenals, and more.
12. Not same as porpoises
A person who doesn’t know much about dolphins can mistake them with porpoises. They look almost similar but aren’t dolphins. Moreover, both the species belong to different families and have varied attributes. So, how do you set them apart?
Dolphins are larger than porpoises, they have long beaks and curved dorsal fins. The porpoises have triangular dorsal fins and spade-shaped teeth.
13. Dolphins are endangered
There are some endangered dolphins like Baiji in China, due to overfishing, hunting, and environmental reasons. These fishes are high in mercury but they are hunted for meat and consumed in places like Japan, Faroe Island, and more. Due to overfishing, the sources of dolphins are shrinking and some of them get caught up in fishing nets and die. Moreover, climate change and higher ocean temperatures are sweeping many fishes and squid off their natural habitats.
14. Superpod can have more than innumerable dolphins
The friendly fishes live in groups and they are called pods. These groups can comprise of a dozen of them or hundreds of them. When dolphins make such groups, they move together, work together, hunt together, and also fight predators. You will be amazed to know that they also take care of injured members of the group.
Many times, one group of pods and befriend another and become a superpod. This way, 1000s of dolphins can move together. However, superpods are temporary and occur in some parts of oceans where there is a lot of food for them and less competition.
15. Oldest dolphin to have lived in captivity was 61 years old
The longevity of dolphins varies from one type to another. Most dolphins live for a few decades, but the ones in captivity usually live lesser than usual. There was one dolphin who had set a record of living for 61 years in captivity. It was called Nellie, the bottlenose dolphin, who was a part of marine entertainment park at Florida. She was born in 1953 and appeared on many TV shows for her tricks and antics. Nellie passed away in 2014 and added her name to the dolphin facts.
How to engage with dolphins?
By now you’re definitely convinced that dolphins are one of the best fishes to befriend. They are not only loved by people because how they are but also smart. They can interact with you, play with you, and even swim beside you. Check out some easy ways to make friends with a dolphin and keep yourself safe:
1. Research and know the law
In some parts of the world, humans try to interact with dolphins too often and that disrupts the natural behavior. It is illegal to feed, approach, or touch dolphins in some counties. Laws are also strict in the US, so you need to know how to approach them legally.
Dolphins are big and powerful enough to hurt you. There are many restrictions on human-dolphin interaction for your safety and not just to prevent animal abuse. You need a guide that helps you meet dolphins, and also make sure that the process is legal.
2. You need a guide
When you visit dolphins living in the natural habitat, you need to go down at least 50 feet to meet them. It isn’t feasible to do this alone until you’re an expert in keeping your safe underwater. It is best to have people who know how to interact with dolphins and can do that in their space.
3. Don’t approach it, let it approach you
One of the best dolphin facts is that they want to interact with you themselves. But if they don’t, you shouldn’t do it. These fishes get scared easily and get defensive. While trying to protect them and become territorial, they can hurt you. They might think that you’re being aggressive. You need to wait for the time that they find you non-threatening. Only then will they want to come near you.
4. Look out for signs of distress
If dolphins seem to smack the water by using their tail, spinning, leaping, or exhaling aloud, they might be agitated. You should stay away and leave them to calm down. This is for your safety and also for the animal.
The situation can happen when a mother dolphin finds their babies near you. It can distress the mothers as they might think you’re going to harm them. You also need to know the swimming patterns of dolphins to interact with them.
If you find the fishes diving for too long or make frequent changes in their speed and direction, they might be upset.
5. Don’t hurt them
If you touch dolphins that are captive, you must consider them sensitive. These dolphins have delicate skin and can be hurt by your nails. Keep away from their blowhole, snout, eyes, melon, and lower jaw to not hurt them.
You shouldn’t try to pet a wild dolphin while watching them from afar. Any kind of invasive activity can scare them out of their natural habitat. You need to stay at least 50 feet away from them and leave the water if you think they are upset.
It is best to watch dolphins from a distance or just as a guide suggests you. Like any other animal, these fishes also understand survival and can harm you if you poke them.