Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


There are over 30 species of dolphin. The bottlenose dolphin is one of the most well-known and popular species of dolphin. They are usually dark grey on the back, gradually getting paler towards the belly. This actually acts as camouflage as when seen from above they blend in with the water, and when seen by a predator from below they blend in with the sky. Each dolphin’s dorsal fin is unique, and each dolphin has its own signature whistle so that others can recognise it.

(C) Bodhi Surf School

Dolphins have very little sense of smell, but have very good hearing and eyesight. Since their vision can be limited in murky water, they often use echolocation in order to find their prey.  They do this by sending out a series of ‘clicks’ from just below the blow hole and the bouncing back of the clicks enables them to form a picture of their surroundings.

Some dolphins can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes, and can dive as deep as 30m.

Dolphins can jump as high as 20 feet out of the water.

Despite having many conical pointed teeth, dolphins do not chew their food. They use their teeth to grasp or rip their food, which they swallow whole or in chunks by throwing back their head. They can eat up to 15kg of food per day. Dolphins’ teeth gain layers as they age and can be used to calculate how old a dolphin is, a bit like rings on a tree trunk.

(C) Jeff Kraus
(C) Steve Dunleavy

Dolphins cannot go into a full deep sleep because they would suffocate. So instead they sleep with one half of their brain, and one eye closed at a time. Dolphins sleep for about 8 hours a day in this way.

Dolphins are very sociable and live in pods of up to 100 individuals. Groups as large as 1000 have been sighted.

Baby dolphins are born tail first and the mother helps them to the surface to get their first breath. They will suckle for up to 2 years, but can remain with their mother for up to 8 years.

There are five species of freshwater dolphin, one of which, the Baiji or Chinese River dolphin, has recently been declared extinct. River dolphins face multiple threats in the wild, mainly due to human activity. Pollution is a major threat in the form of pesticides, plastics, heavy metals and other industrial or agricultural chemicals.  Building dams or barrages restricts dolphins’ movement and affects their access to prey and a suitable habitat. One of the greatest threats to dolphins in the oceans is entanglement in fishing gear; over 300,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales are killed each year in this way.

Males: Bull
Females: Cow
Body Length: 2.4-3.8 m
Weight: 200-500 kg
Life Expectancy: 25 years
Diet: Fish, squid, crabs, lobsters
HABITAT: Oceans and seas around the world
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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