14 Interesting And Fun Facts About Dolphins

Dolphin SmilingHave you ever seen an angry or sad looking dolphin? They always appear to be smiling and it doesn’t take long to get you into a smiley mood when you see them. 

Here are 14 interesting and fun facts about dolphins for you to remember when you see them on your next vacation. Check out the dolphin videos here too. 

Dolphins attract people from all over the world because they’re friendly, curious, adventuresome, beautiful, and graceful sea creatures. In other words, they have all the personality we’re attracted to as human beings. 

When you’re underwater scuba diving with your dive buddy, it’s exciting to see a pod of dolphins who look like they’re on some kind of mission, stop and perform in front of you doing somersaults, scoop sand up with their snouts and suddenly move on. Your heart beats faster and you just can’t take that smile away from your face! Sometimes, they stay for a good visit and play around…

One of the things I enjoy doing while sitting on the dive boat waiting to get to the next dive site is watching dolphins ride the boat waves. They’ll flip up and over and swim under the boat and reappear. 

What are dolphins?


I think most of us have either seen dolphins in movies or TV series like Flipper, in salt water or aquariums like Sea World.

Dolphins are aquatic mammals and it doesn’t matter where they live, they still need to surface to breathe through their blowhole which is located on the top of their heads. Located in the oceans, Indus and Ganges River, Amazon River, LaPlata River, Baiji or Chinese River, scientists and researchers have identified 43 different dolphin species of which 38 are oceanic and 5 are river species.

Although some dolphin species prefer being in the river, you will quickly realize the best place to see and enjoy dolphins are in warm salt waters.

Some Interesting And Fun Facts About Dolphins


Intelligent

We are not the only intelligent creatures on this earth. Rated as one of the 10 most intelligent creatures on this planet earth, dolphins have a large brain and is much more profound and structured than human brains. For example, some dolphin species have been able to manipulate their environment as they have been observed using sea sponges to protect their snouts from getting them scratched or wounded when bottom feeding. Even the calves have been taught by their mothers and are seen with small sponges on their snouts. 

Advanced Cognition

Did you know dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror? Studies show dolphins recognize themselves in the mirror and even admire how they look. Researchers have placed a temporary mark on them and the only way to see it is in the mirror. The dolphins would swim to the mirror and investigate the mark on their body.

Maternal Instinct

Mother Dolphin Parenting

Dolphins have many emotional likenesses, similar to humans, in that they play, enjoy, love and teach their young. When the fully developed calf is born, the first thing the dolphin mother does is to help it to the surface so it can breathe. This is the first thing the newborn calf learns.

The calf nurses from the mother for approximately 6 months to 2 years and remain with their mother through their teenage years 5 – 10 years of age. During this time, the mother teaches the young how to protect itself, look for food, play with their food and have fun. It’s really cool to see the calf mimic and mirror everything the mother does.

Do Dolphins Sleep?

Dolphins sleep and they usually want at least 8 hours, but the challenge for them is they need to be alert and awake at the same time to be able to breathe. What’s interesting is, the dolphins have figured the sleep part by keeping one eye open while allowing half of their brain to sleep. I wish I had the ability to do that…

So how do they breathe while sleeping? They have several ways and it really depends on their situation and preferences. They can be in shallow water and leave their blowhole exposed or they can swim very slowly and surface when they need to breathe.

The most relaxing I’m thinking is to just hang out at the surface with their blowhole exposed out of the water in a log floating state.

Fun, Entertaining and Social

Spinner Dolphins having fun playing with leaves. 


Dolphins love to play games among themselves and are extremely sociable to humans. Sometimes, when you’re diving or snorkeling, some Spinner Dolphins will bring their family and get you to participate with their leaf game. They’ll juggle the leaves on their snouts, toss it over so it lands on one of their pectoral fins, flip it up and the dolphins will scoop it holding it by their teeth.

Dolphin Communication

Dolphins hunting strategy…

Bottlenose dolphins communication appears quite sophisticated and intricate. From mothers to their calves, to forming a social network among their own group to even casual relationships with individuals or other dolphin groups, they are one of the best underwater communicators. 

Even more than one pod can join in working together to hunt and herd abundant prey and even be courteous enough to wait their turn so other dolphins can eat.

Dolphins use different sounds to communicate with each other. It can be clicks, whistles, pulsed sounds like barks and squawks. And it’s not just sounds, they also use their body languages like pectoral fin slaps, jaw popping, and different body positions.

So yes, dolphins can definitely communicate amongst themselves. Even research and studies show dolphins can understand the structured language of humans.

Smiley Dolphins

Not only are humans attracted to dolphins for their intelligence and skills in communication, it’s their ‘smiley faces’ they always have when you see them. You think they’re excited and happy to see you. Their smiley face is an anatomical illusion based on their jaw configuration. In my opinion, I can’t see that they are truly happy inside when they’re taken into captivity to be on exhibit for humans, away from their pod family and the natural freedom they had. 

Dolphin Sonar


If you were in a cave and yelled out, you would hear an echo right? That’s the sound wave bouncing and coming back so you can hear it again.

Dolphins have extraordinary hearing much better than your hearing and their eyesight is exceptionally excellent. They use the echoes to tell them exactly what’s around them when they send certain clicking sounds out underwater that bounce back off whatever obstacle they hit, like a school of fish.  By listening to the echoes, dolphins can tell exactly where the fish are and even tell what kind of fish they are.

Dolphins have been using this technology for centuries when humans have been using sonar from only the 20th century. Dolphins use sonar for objects and for hunting food. They also use sonar to send messages over a distance of 220 km which helps them find mates and warn each other of danger.

Do Dolphins Mourn?

Mother dolphin grieving, very sad…

Dolphins grieve just like humans. It’s heartbreaking to see the mother dolphin carry her dead or dying calf for days. Many dolphins calves, especially the juveniles are killed by pleasure boats.

Do Dolphins Have Teeth?

All dolphins have teeth and some have as many as 100 teeth, but instead of chewing their fish and squid, they only use their teeth to hold onto it and swallow it. Their teeth are not designed to cut and grind food.  Sometimes they play with their food by tossing the fish up in the air and catch it with their teeth.

Land Mammals Characteristics

Dolphins are characterized as mammals, not fish even though they live underwater and will typically give birth to one live calf every 2 -4 years. Fish breathe through gills, while dolphins who are also warm-blooded, have lungs and need to surface to breathe air on a regular basis. 

They have smooth streamlined bodies and it’s hard to believe this but they also have hair growth at the time of their birth which appears scattered on their chin. It doesn’t take long though for it all to fall out so you will only see tiny marks on their skin showing they had hair.

Fast Swimmers

Sometimes, when you’re underwater, you’ll see dolphins who appear to be on a mission as they will totally ignore you. They’ll speed especially when they see food and can swim over 34.5 miles an hour/55.5 km per hour and remain underwater for approximately 10 minutes.

Dolphins Pods 

Dolphins are social sea mammals who desire to be in a group of pods. Made up of as many as 12 dolphins in a single pod, they are committed to protecting each other,  hunting for food and for mating purposes. Other pods sometimes join the pod for a short while when there is an overabundance of food to share and strategize together to trap the prey.

Dolphin Extinctions

Dolphin Caught In Fishnet

Sadly, dolphins are also threatened by human behavior.

With many different cultures in the world, some are hunted and consumed as a food source. There is, however, a dangerous downside to this, in that some dolphin species such as the Spinner Dolphins and other Atlantic Spotted species have been found to have toxins like mercury in their tissues.

Many dolphins have been killed by boats or maimed and some have been trapped in fishnets and left to drown.

The dolphins in the Yangtze River are almost also extinct due to human behavior.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and remember, the next time you’re sitting on a boat out in warm ocean waters, look for dolphins. They could be riding the waves…

If you have had any dolphin encounters and would like to share your story, it would be awesome to hear from you. Please write any questions or comments in the Comment Box below.

Thanks for reading!

Monica

 

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4 comments

  1. Wow ! What a great article, Monica ! How can “anyone” not love Dolphins ? I must admit until I read your article, I didn’t knw dolphins actually exist in rivers ? :O
    I never had the chance to swim amongst them, however, I saw them accompany our Sail boat back in Hawaii and Los Angeles. Absolutely gorgeous creatures.
    I certainly agree that the fact that they seem to smile, makes them that much more lovable and I am old enough to have watched the TV series “Flipper”, oh, so many years ago, so I can only imagine just how awesome it must feel to scuba dive among the dolphins ! Thank you for the quick lesson on one of the most beloved sea creatures out there, Monica ! 🙂

    1. Hi Rico, you’re welcome thank you for your great comment. I really glad you enjoyed reading my Dolphin article. 

      The river dolphins have longer beaks to catch their fast moving prey in murky water. 

      Wow… it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a sail boat. For sure, the dolphins will be riding your waves. 

      Thank you for reading!

      Monica

  2. I was lucky enough when I was in Florida to be able to swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove for the day. Since I was a kid, they always fascinated me. They are probably the most intelligent animal in the ocean. Your site brought all of those memories back to me. They are lovely creatures, I hope to one day be able to go Scuba diving so that I can see things in their natural habitat, rather than in captivity. Thanks for all the info

    1. Hi Michelle, your welcome and thank you for your awesome comment! Like you, I have always loved dolphins. Sadly, I don’t live close to the ocean and if I did, I think I would be swimming with them every day. 

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