The Dolphin is one of the most beautiful and lively marine creatures on this Earth. It sings underneath the Oceans of this world and jump out of the waters to ‘see’ the world we live in. They are graceful, sleek swimmers and can reach speeds of more than 18 miles an hour. They are playful and often frolic in a boat’s wake, leaping out of the water --- mainly for fun but also to communicate and shed pesky parasites.
Dolphins are small-toothed cetaceans (aquatic mammals) easily recognized by the curved mouth, which gives the dolphin its permanent ‘Smile.’ There are 36 species of dolphin which are found in every ocean. The largest species of dolphin is the Orca which can grow to be over 30 feet long (9 metres). The smallest species is the Maui dolphin which is 5 feet long (1.5 metres).
These marine creatures feed mainly on fish and squid, which they track using echolocation, an echo locating dolphin can make up to 1,000 clicking sounds per second! Echolocation = is a built in sonar that bounces sound waves off prey and reveals information like location, size and shape.
Living in “Pods” of 12 or more, dolphins are intensely social mammals that communicate with clicks, squeaks and whistles. These mammals have warm blood and nurse their young. Dolphins have more than one mate and (usually) produce a ‘single’ baby that will stay with its mother for up to 6 years, depending on the species.
The Orca is also known as the “Killer Whale”, these marine mammals are actually the largest species of the dolphin family. It is one of the most familiar and easily recognized cetaceans. Their black body, white patch behind the eye, white chin and underbelly, with white/ grey “Saddle” behind the dorsal fin = makes them easy to spot.
Orcas are very sociable and ‘inquisitive’ creatures and travel in groups of up to 50 individuals. They are fast, active and are often seen breaching, crashing and ‘spy-hopping.’ They rarely attack humans but have been seen to attack larger species of whales. They feed mainly on fish.
The Maui Dolphin is also called the “Popoto” dolphin and is a subspecies of the Hector’s dolphin (which is New Zealand’s only endemic cetacean species). In 2019, it was estimated that there were only 57 to 75 Maui dolphins (over the age of 1 years old) left in existence. Their main threat is mankind --- boat strikes, mining, construction, coastal development, pollution, marine tourism, marine farming and climate change, fishing alone can kill roughly 5 of these dolphins every year.
They have distinctive grey, white and black markings, a short snout, unique, rounded dorsal fins and small but solidly-built bodies. The female grows up to 1.7m long and can weigh up to 50 kg, the male is slightly smaller and weighs less.
This species of dolphin are known to eat red codling and peltorhamphus flat fish.
The Common Bottlenose Dolphin is the most familiar of dolphins, which are seen in aquariums and coastlines from around the globe. It’s much larger than most other dolphin species as it can reach almost 4m (13 feet) in length.
This species travels either on their own or in “Pods” of up to 50 dolphins. They are capable of very impressive acrobatics, leaping high out of the water and somersaulting. These dolphins are very sociable marine creatures and are often seen with other species of dolphins.
On average, this species of dolphin are 8.5 feet long and weigh 400-500 pounds. They can reach up to speeds of over 30km an hour and dive as deep as 250m (820 feet).
The Vaquita literally means “little cow” and is a species of porpoise. It is the smallest of all living marine mammals and, unfortunately, is on the edge of extinction.
The Vaquita has a large dark ring around its eyes and dark patches on its lips that form a thin line from the mouth to the pectoral fins. This species forage on a variety of demersal fish species, crustaceans and squids, as well as benthic fish such as grunts and croakers.
They live for around 20 years. In 2018, it was estimated that there were as few as 19 individuals.
The Risso's Dolphin is known as the “Monk” dolphin among the Taiwanese fishermen. Their distinctive grey body over time becomes covered in scars, which they get from other Risso’s Dolphins and squid (their favourite food).
This species of dolphin is ‘busy’ and ‘incredibly sociable.’ They have been seen leaping out of the water, breaching, tail and head-slapping and are generally very active. They like to ‘interact’ with other dolphin species.
Their favourite food is squid, squid and more squid, but they also dine on prawns, shrimps and cuttlefish.
They grow up to 4m in length (13 feet) and can be mistaken for the Orca. Some have lived up to 50 years of age.
There are 32 known species of dolphins and 6 species of porpoise. These beautifully lovely and intelligent marine mammals share the Oceans of the Earth with us humans, and are really inquisitive about us.
Who would love to swim with dolphins?