10 Interesting facts about dolphins you probably didn’t know
Everybody loves dolphins. They are highly intelligent and, what’s more important, they are capable of showing compassion, something extremely rare in the animal kingdom. Here are ten other interesting facts about dolphins that you probably didn’t know:
1. The name means ‘womb’
The word ‘dolphin’ comes from the Greek delphis, which means womb. This refers to the fact that dolphins are mammals, of course. On the other hand, ‘porpoise’ comes from the Old French word ‘porpaise’, which means ‘pork fish’, perhaps because of this dolphin’s snout. The Greeks, however, believed they were holy and killing a dolphin resulted in a death sentence.
2. They have a hundred teeth
That’s right, their friendly little snouts are full of teeth but they don’t use them for chewing their prey, they typically just use them to grab the fish and then swallow it whole. They hunt in groups, surrounding the target school of fish and then digging in.
3. They’re team players
When they hunt, they help each other get the food they need, rather than competing. They are also known to help their injured fellow dolphins because of their very human-like bond with the group, which is by the way called a pod.
4. They like humans
This is a sad irony because we are actually the biggest threat to dolphins. Documented interactions between dolphins and humans date back to ancient times and today such interactions are used as therapy for a range of health problems, mainly mental. But humans also fish using huge nets that cost the lives of thousands of dolphins every year. And that’s even without mentioning pollution.
5. They come in all sizes
Dolphin species, all 36 of them, vary considerably in size. The smallest one is Maui’s dolphin, which reaches just four feet (that’s 1.20 metres) in length and weighs about 90 pounds. At the other end of the size scale is the orca, the killer whale, which is, yes, actually a dolphin. Orcas reach 25 feet in length and 19,000 pounds in weight. Besides being the biggest, they also live the longest, with some known to have survived well into their 70s, even 80s.
6. They are the bats of the sea
That’s in the sense that they rely heavily on echolocation. Echolocation basically means navigating by sound waves. Unlike bats, however, dolphins have good eyesight and taste, plus a very strong sense of touch. People who study them say it has to do with the bonding in the pod – they touch each other to feel close. Pretty much like us.
7. The blowhole is a nose
Yes, that’s right. Dolphins use their blowhole to breathe, we know that, but it’s a less known fact that this blowhole is actually a nose that evolution has moved to the top of dolphins’ heads, probably for more comfortable breathing.
8. Cows and bulls beget calves
Funnily enough, the female dolphins are called cows, and the male ones bulls. Logically, the babies are calves. They are born tail-first (like us, except of course it’s feet not tails with humans) and that’s because otherwise they would drown. Hard to believe but if they inhale just a tablespoon of water, they would drown. For us it’s two tablespoons that is the fatal dose, in case you’re interested.
9. They use tools
That’s probably one of the strangest things about dolphins. It’s strange because it’s not a common tendency among animals to use tools, though more than one species, from wasps to monkeys, are known to do it. One instance of tool use is when adult dolphins cover their young’s snout with a sponge to avoid hurting it while learning to look for food.
10. They play
Yes, we all know this but we don’t usually think about its significance. Playing is perhaps even rarer among animals than using tools and that’s because most animals are too busy surviving to make time for a game. But dolphins play, and not just with each other but with seaweed too, and, of course, with humans. They also play with dogs – brains go to brains, you know.
Aren’t dolphins just amazing?!