dolphin in ocean

Dolphins 101



Fun Facts About Dolphins

Did you know dolphins whistle? Or that they belong to the cetacean family?  Dolphins are incredible animals that are known for being playful, intelligent, and sociable. Check out the below to learn where dolphins live, what they eat, and much more.  

1. What is a dolphin?

Dolphins are marine mammals who belong to the order Cetacea (meaning “large sea creature” in Latin). By appearance, dolphins have a beaklike snout, also called a rostrum, and a curved fin on their back. While some may think dolphins are fish, they aren’t. They are warm-blooded and must surface to breathe air through their lungs.

2. Where do dolphins live?

In short, all over the world! Dolphins live in oceans and in rivers. The best-known species, the bottlenose dolphin, lives in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. River dolphins such as the Pink River dolphin lives in the Amazon River while the Indus River dolphin lives in Pakistan’s Indus River. Most dolphin species live in tropical and temperate environments.

3. How many species of dolphins are there?

There are 42 known species of dolphins.

4. What do dolphins eat?

Dolphins are carnivores, meaning they eat other animals. Depending on the species, dolphins eat a variety of fish, squid, shrimp, octopus, and jellyfish. Dolphins have a variety of hunting techniques, including mud ring feeding, a method used to trap fish by creating a “mud net” that confuses fish to jump out of the water into a dolphin’s mouth.

5. How do dolphins communicate?

Dolphins communicate through two types of sound, “whistles” and “clicks.” Research found dolphins whistle to communicate with other individuals and that each dolphin creates their own “signature whistle” that they develop at a young age. On the other hand, dolphins create clicking sounds to sense their surrounding through echolocation. Echolocation is a physiological process for locating objects (such as prey) using sound waves. That means dolphins can hunt no matter how murky the water is!

6. What’s the largest dolphin species? Smallest?

The largest dolphin is the orca (killer whale). Orcas can grow to be over 30 feet long. The smallest is the Maui dolphin, measuring up to 5.5 feet long. Maui dolphins are extremely rare and can only be found in the western shores of New Zealand. Some confuse the vaquita with being the smallest dolphin, but contrary to popular belief, vaquitas are porpoises, not dolphins. Porpoises differ from dolphins in that they’re much smaller and have a triangular fin as opposed to a dolphin’s curved one.

7. How long do dolphins live?

The average life span depends on the species. Smaller species live around 20 years old, whereas larger species (such as orcas) can live 80 years or more. Scientists can estimate a dolphin’s age by looking at their teeth. Similar to growth rings in trees, dolphin teeth have layers from growing year by year, which can then be counted to estimate age.

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