Do you remember dolphin Flipper, Alpha & Beta, Hope and Winter, Snowflake, Orca Willy or Jones, the retired Navy dolphin-hacker from Johnny Mnemonic? If you do, it means two things: you’ve met some of the most loved dolphins of the planet that made it to the big screen; also, you already know how lovable they are, just like their relatives swimming in the deep waters of the oceans.
Dolphins, the sacred fish of the Ancient Greeks
The Ancient Greeks called dolphins "hieros ichthys" which means sacred fish. They went so far as considering the killing of a dolphin a sacrilegious act and therefore punishable by death.
The name of the dolphin is also linked to the Greeks, as it originally came δελφίς (delphís), "dolphin", which was related to the Greek δελφύς (delphus), "womb". The animal's name can therefore be interpreted as meaning "a fish with a womb". The name was transmitted via the Latin "delphinus", which in Medieval Latin became "dolfinus" and in Old French "daulphin", which reintroduced the 'ph' into the word. In modern languages we now have it as “dolphin” in English, “dupin” in Croatian, “delfino” in Italian, “delfín” in Czech and Spanish, “delfin” in Romanian, “delfiini” in Finish, “dolfijn” in Dutch, or “dolffiniaid” in Welsh.
Top 10 Most Fascinating Facts about Dolphins
Dolphins are extraordinarily intelligent, friendly, funny, playful and full of surprises. And with such treats, who can remain immune to their charm? It’s no wonder that Albert Einstein praised them by saying that “There's no question dolphins are smarter than humans as they play more.” Here are the top 10 most fascinating things about dolphins that we’ve dug out for you.
1. Nearly 40 species of dolphins
Well-known for their playful character, most dolphins swim in the in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans, yet there are some who enjoy living in the rivers. There are over 40 species of dolphins, the most common being the Bottlenose dolphin.
2. Dolphin’s amazing brain
Dolphins are not just lovely creatures, but they are also extremely intelligent. By comparing the ratio size of brain to body, scientists came to the conclusion that dolphins rank second, right after the humans! A dolphin’s brain is 4-5 times larger than those of other animals of similar size.
3. Dolphins sleep resting one side of the brain at a time
To prevent drowning while sleeping only half of the dolphin’s brain goes to sleep! The other half remains awake so they can continue to breathe! It is said that dolphins are as smart as apes, and that the evolution of their larger brains is surprisingly similar to humans.
4. Dolphins have 2 stomachs
One is used for storage of food and the other is used for digestion. By the way, dolphins never chew their food, they swallow it as a whole. Their teeth are used only to catch their prey; fish, squid and crustacean are their favourite. Also, a 260-pound dolphin eats about 33 pounds of fish a day.
5. Dolphin sonar is the best in the world
Dolphin sonar is the best in nature and superior to bats’ and man-made sonar. Just like bats, they use echolocation to navigate and hunt, bouncing high-pitched sounds off of objects, and listening for the echoes. Their teeth work as a kind of antenna to pick up the sounds bounced back by their prey during echolocation.
6. Protected by midwives and loved by their mothers
Depending on the species, dolphin’s gestation takes 9 to 17 months and mothers breastfeed calves for two or three years. Dolphins have been observed nestling and cuddling with their young. It is in the nature of the dolphins to stick with their mothers between three and eight years before they leave their pod.
7. Dolphins attend the sick relatives
It is said that elephants caring for a crippled herd member is a sign of empathy. Well, we could say the same about the dolphins who are often seen tending to the sick, the ill, old and the injured in their group, which is known as ‘pod’. If needed, they can help others breathe by bringing them to the surface.
8. Dolphins know how to use tools
It would be an overstatement to call dolphins carpenter, but for sure they know how to use tools! They use broken off sea sponges to protect their noses while they forage! But, make no mistake, dolphins are not the only creatures using tools. Recent studies talk about chimps who use rocks to crack nuts, while others fish for termites with blades of grass. Gorillas gauge the depth of water with the equivalent of a dipstick.
9. Orca, the killer whale, is a dolphin
Though called killer whales, orcas are not whales! Orcas, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world's most powerful predators. With a lifespan in the wild ranging from 50 to 80 years, Orcas can reach up to 32 feet and 6 tons. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales. This is where they also got the nickname of “killer whales”. Orcas (Orcinus orca) are also known for grabbing seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds.
10. Dolphins are great at healing themselves!
Dolphins have an extremely sensitive skin, so they can easily get injured at the slightest touch of a hard surface. Despite the sensitivity, they have a great healing capacity even from deep wounds like the shark bites. The experts do not have a clear explanation for this phenomenon, especially since they claim that similar mammals suffering from similar wounds would die from a hemorrhage instead.
April 14, 2018 - Happy Dolphin Day!
Dolphins have a whole day dedicated to their existence for a good reason, as some species of dolphin are endangered, and the biggest threat to their future is man. Let’s raise awareness for the protection of these beautiful creatures.
Dolphin’s Quick Facts List
- Order: Cetacea
- Scientific name: Delphinadae (oceanic species) and Platanistoidea (river species)
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Carnivore;
- Lifespan: 12-20 years
- Size: 1.2-9.1m long
- Weight: 40 kg to over 6 tonnes
- Range: Global, typically found in shallow seawater of the continental shelves
Author: Ana-Maria Bogdan