Male dolphins are known as bulls, females as cows and babies as calves.
Male bottlenose dolphins can grow to 3 metres in length and are much larger than female dolphins.
Dolphins are identified by their dorsal fins and this is used to tell them apart.
Bottlenose dolphins eat up to 30 lbs each day of their staple diet of fish, squid and other small marine life.
Although dolphins have good eyesight this is of limited use in dark water and in these conditions their echolocation abilities provide the bulk of their navigational abilities and helps them to ‘map’ their underwater environment much like SONAR devices used by ships and submarines. Dolphins also use their echolocation abilities to detect and identify the nature, size and direction of surrounding animals.
Dolphins communicate with each other through clicking and whistling sounds – the clicking also being part of the dolphin’s echo-location system.
Dolphins have almost no sense of smell.
Dolphin calves are ‘towed’ along by their mothers, which is why they swim so close for the first period of their lives – the drag created by their larger parent drags them through the water allowing them to keep up. This also allows the parent to protect the calf from predators.
Dolphins are not an aggressive creature by nature but can deliver crushing blows to predators by ramming them at speed with their strong noses. Larger, more dominant pod members have been known to bully and abuse smaller and weaker animals within the pod, one of the many parallels between human and dolphin behaviour. They will also aid injured, sick or dying pod members.
Most dolphins live in the world’s seas and oceans, although several species of fresh-water dolphins exist in rivers around the world.
Some dolphins can breathe underwater for up to 30 minutes whereas others have to surface every 30 seconds to take in air. The air they breathe is taken in through the blowhole on the top of their heads.
Dolphins sleep on the surface of the water, by closing one eye and ‘turning off’ half of their brain which allows them to rest while still controlling their breathing and remaining aware of predators. They can then effectively switch which side of their brains is in use allowing them to use the rested side during the day.
Dolphins are extremely playful, agile and acrobatic and love to show off to anyone who will watch. They can often be seen leaping out of the water and performing somersaults and other manoeuvres. They can leap upto 20 feet out of the water and swim at up to 25 miles per hour.
Dolphins are naturally inquisitive and will often swim up to boats and ships and swim alongside them.
Like humans, dolphins attribute names to each other and can call each other using specific patterns of clicks and whistles – they also have their own specific ‘signature call’ allowing them to identify themselves to others.
Dolphins can live up to 60 years in the wild though the average is around 45 years.
The Killer Whale actually belongs to the dolphin family.
The dolphin is protected from the cold of the water by a layer of blubber, which provides effective insulation. Its skin is however about as delicate as that of a human and prone to damage by abrasion.
Certain species of dolphin choose to swim with tuna fish and as a result their populations can be decimated by commercial tuna fishing.
Dolphins reach maturity at around 10-15 years old and in general females produce 1 calf every 2-4 years. Dolphin calves are born tail first, which makes them unique amongst mammals.