Fun Dolphin Facts
Everybody loves dolphins. What’s not to love? Dolphins are playful and cute, but also very intelligent! Read on for our amazing dolphin facts. Bet you don’t know all of these!
We know plenty about dolphins today, but we still don’t know all that much about their past.
There are lots of ideas about how dolphins have evolved and some fossil remains have been found, but nothing has really given us a whole picture of their past.
Quick Dolphin Facts
- Dolphins are highly social and travel in groups knows as pods. Some large groups, also known as ‘Super pods’, can have as many as 1000 dolphins in them
- Baby dolphins or calves stick with their mothers for 4 to 8 years after birth.
- Dolphins are carnivores, which makes them active predators.
- Dolphins have to make conscious efforts when it comes to breathing and make active decisions about inhalation and exhalation.
- Dolphins are known to be great divers and can dive up to 1,000 feet underwater.
- The average lifespan of dolphins is about 17 years, bottleenosee dolphins can live up to 50 years!
- Dolphins never chew their food, they swallow it as a whole. Their teeth are used only to catch their prey.
- Dolphins have 2 stomachs – One is used for storage of food and the other is used for digestion.
Cool Dolphin Facts Infographic
Note: check out our dolphins infographic! We call it “Dolphins Illustrated”.
The one thing that the crazy scientists think is that dolphins were much smaller hundreds of years ago.
Also, dolphins use something called ‘echolocation’, a complex way of communicating and finding prey through sound waves, and it is thought that dolphins have developed this skill to protect themselves.
Pretty neat huh?
But there are also other theories! You’ll be surprised by this. Some people believe that they evolved from land animals. What? Their land ‘ancestor’ lived about 50 million years ago and looked like a wolf.
Sounds rather strange, but apparently they hunted in shallow waters and then adapted to life in the water.
We know this as a dolphins forelegs became flippers, their hind legs disappeared completely, and the fluke (the name for the tail) arrived.
Also, their fur disappeared and their nostrils moved to the top of their head.
Who knows whether this is true or not.
In Ancient Greece it was not at all cool to kill a dolphin. Good for them. If people did, they could be punished by death. They called dolphin’s ‘hieros ichthys’ which means ‘sacred fish’.
The sun god, Apollo, took the form of a dolphin when he found his oracle at Delphi at Mount Parnassus. Interesting.
Protecting Dolphins and Extinction
As with a lot of animals, they are becoming endangered, and the dolphin is no exception.
Some dolphin species face the threat of distinction. How sad. And their greatest enemy is none other than us humans.
They get caught in nets when boats are out fishing, or they hit boats, and this kills loads of dolphins every year.
The Yangtze River Dolphin is a species which may be extinct as none have been seen for a very long time.
Dolphin Quick Fire Facts
Dolphins are meant to be very intelligent animals.
Female dolphins are called cows, males are bulls and young dolphins are called calves. Just like cows themselves.
Dolphins stick together and have some awesome friends. They hand out in schools, or pods of up to 12 of them.
The dolphin is the only mammal that gives birth with the tail first instead of the head, and this is to make sure their baby doesn’t drown. Animals are amazing.
Dolphins stay with their moms for about 2 to 3 years. Can you imagine going out into the world by yourself at 3…wow that would be a challenge.
They are very playful animals, which is probably why humans love them so much and are so fascinated by them.
You could see them jumping out the water, riding waves, play-fighting, and sometimes they’ll even come and give you a quick nudge to say hi if you’re in the water with them!
They also like to tease a bit. Amazingly they also play with seaweed. All the toys we’ve got and dolphins play with seaweed…awesome. Perhaps you should try it one day.
Dolphins can’t actually breathe out of their mouths. So how do they breathe? Well they use the blowhole at the top of their heads, which is like a big nostril.
You must have heard dolphins making clicking and whistling sounds…well this is how they chat to each other. Wouldn’t it be great to learn their language and talk to them too?
Wow, there are a lot of different types of dolphins. There are 36 different species of ocean dolphins and 5 species of river dolphins. Most live in saltwater but some of them live in freshwater, mostly the Amazon River.
Dolphins live for about 17 years in the wild, but there have been some that have lived up to the age of 50. In dolphin years that’s a lot.
What Do Dolphins Eat?
They are carnivores, which mean they eat meat including fish and squid. Yum.
Dolphins have about 100 teeth, but some dolphins have 8 teeth and there are others with 250. Bottlenose dolphins have 72-104 teeth.
They only get one set of teeth for life. They don’t actually use them to eat amazingly. Try and eat something without your teeth; it could be rather difficult.
What they do is they catch their prey with their teeth and then swallow them whole. They don’t have any jaw muscles so that’s why they can’t chew. Surprising they don’t get tummy aches.
They eat about 30 pounds (about 14 kilograms) of fish each day.
We know they’re clever, but the way they catch their prey is brilliant. The whole pod works as a team and they get a school of fish surrounded and balled up, so that they’re much easier to eat.
They then each take a turn and go right through the middle of the school of fish and munch away. Clever indeed.
They use all sorts of ways to make sure they get their dinner; they might jump or do zig-zag patters, circles or a combination of all to make sure they catch their fish.
Dolphins have a cool time under the water, playing and swimming, but they can’t actually breathe underwater.
So how do they get air? Well they come up for air all the time, which is why you’ll see the above the water.
They can stay underwater for between 20 seconds and 30 minutes. Do you think you could hold your breath for 30 minutes? Don’t think so.
More Cool Facts About Dolphins
Unbelievably the Killer Whale (also called an Orca) is one massive dolphin. It is the largest dolphin around.
This is amazing. How did the Killer Whale get its name? This is because it separates baby whales from their pods and eats them! No way. They also eat other dolphins. That’s not cool to eat part of your family.
Who would have thought that dolphins can actually swim up to 850 feet (260 meters) below the ocean? Well it’s true. This is cool. The deepest a dolphin has ever dived was 1,000 feet (300 meters).
The dolphin was a US Navy trained dolphin and her name was Tuffy.
How awesome. But most dolphins spend most of their time in less than 2 meters (about 7 feet) of water. Well done Tuffy!
Dolphins have often been seen helping humans. How kind. They sometimes help with fishing and have even helped with rescues. That’s awesome.
Dolphins vary in size from super small to super large, depending on what type of dolphin it is.
The large ones can weigh up to 11 tons (nearly 10,000 kilograms), which is about the same as four cars, and they can be about 30 feet (9 meters) long.
Then the smaller ones will weigh about 90 pounds (40 kilograms) and be 4 feet (about 1 meter) long. What a big difference.
A dolphin’s body is made to help them move through the water quickly and without using too much energy.
They rely on their pectoral fins and the fluke (tail) to help them navigate their way through the water.
Dolphins certainly don’t need glasses; they have excellent eyesight both in the water and out. So you can’t hide anything from them, that’s for sure.
They can even hear really well, about 10 times better than humans. Be careful what you say around dolphins as you don’t want to hurt their feelings!
But they can’t actually smell very well, so you might be able to hide your lunch from them.
Amazingly dolphins have two stomachs, just like cows. The first one stores all their food and the second one does all the hard work of digesting the food.
Just like our finger prints, the dorsal fin on every dolphin is completely unique; there are no two the same.
Dolphins can swim up to a speed of 25 miles (40 kilometers) per hour for long periods of time. That is seriously fast. But they normally travel at speeds of about 5 miles (about 8 kilometers) per hour.
This is because their motion is most efficient at these speeds.
When they swim faster, this is when you’ll see them jump clear out of the water. This helps them save up some energy as the air provides a lot less resistance than the water.
Dolphins love their pod family; they’ve often been seen caring for the sick and the elderly as well as injured dolphins. What kind animals.
So dolphins are really cute and sweet, but did you know they can actually be quite aggressive if pushed too far. Make sure you’re super friendly.
A dolphin’s brain comes in second for size when compared to its body size. Number one is the human brain!
A dolphin’s skin is very sensitive and delicate and can be easily damaged. Make sure you touch them gently if you ever get the chance.
Now this is an amazing fact. Only one side of a dolphin’s brain sleeps at a time. Weird right? This allows them to be able to breathe and to watch for threats even while they are resting.
Marine dolphins sleep with one eye open and the other eye closed. Dolphins have to be conscious to breathe and each part of their brain takes a turn to get some much needed shut eye.
When the left side of the brain rests, the right eye of the dolphin is closed and when the right side of the brain rests the left eye is closed.
Do dolphins have hair? Most of them don’t except for a few hairs they’re born with. But there is one dolphin that has a small amount of hair, the Boto River Dolphin who keeps the hair until they’re an adult.
Dolphins have the most amazing healing process and no one understands why. Even if they’ve got a big shark bite, they heal quickly whereas other animals would lose too much blood.
How they do that, nobody knows.
Do dolphins drink water? Well surprisingly not as it’s very salty; hardly surprising, salt water doesn’t taste all that good.
They get all the water they need from their food and if they do need water they can burn their fat. Wow.
Some dolphins can see colors and others can’t; some only see in shades of grey, while others see blue-green colors.
Fish normally swim with their tails moving from side to side, but dolphins swim by moving their tails up and down. They really are a unique animal.
Dolphins are better swimmers than fish and this is because they carry loads more oxygen in their blood than fish, which helps them to swim longer than a fish.
Surprisingly dolphins actually shed their skins, just like a snake. Wow. But it also helps to get rid of algae and bacteria that can cling to their skins.
Wow, this is cool. A dolphin can whistle to communicate and click for sonar waves both at the same time.
That would be like a human speaking in two different voices, with two different pitches and having two different conversations.
Give it a try, go on!
Dolphins eyes produce tears, but they’re not sad don’t worry. It actually protects their eyes from foreign objects and infection as well as reducing the friction between their eyes and the sea water.
What exactly is a blowhole? Well it’s a nose really that sits on top of the dolphin’s head. Can you imagine your nose on the top of your head? It would be really weird.
This ‘nose’ evolved for the echolocation system they use to communicate. Most whales actually have two blowholes, and the dolphin just has the one.
Most mammals’ brains have a very smooth surface except for our brains, which have lots of folds in it. A dolphin’s brain has even more folds than ours and they were like this millions of years before we appeared on the scene.
Did you know that there is a dolphin that looks like a unicorn? Well it’s called the Narwhal Dolphin and it has a large ivory tusk.
Pink, blue or albino, the Amazon River Dolphin is the most recognizable river dolphin species. It has a ridge along its back rather than a dorsal fin and its fat, heavy body is very flexible.
They have paddle-like flippers which move them in a circular motion. This means they can move easily but are not necessarily fast. How cool.
Males can get as long as 8 feet (about 2.5 meters) which makes them the largest river dolphin. This is weird as in all the other river dolphins the females are larger. Interesting.
There is one species of dolphin that only sleeps for a few seconds at a time. Shame, it must be tired. This is because it has to dodge debris in the water where it lives.
We hope you enjoyed our dolphin facts! Are you ready to share your new knowledge with your friends and classmates?
Now, check out our cool dolphins infographic!