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Dolphin Facts

The dolphin is an intelligent marine mammal that lives in the water, but it breathes through a blowhole on its head. They have developed echolocation to hunt and feed. They are very playful and friendly.

Dolphins are friendly mammals known for their friendliness. There are more than 40 dolphin species.

Dolphin Facts for Kids

  • They are very intelligent compared to other animals.
  • The dolphin is a carnivore (a meat-eater).
  • Bottlenose dolphins are the most common species of dolphins.
  • To breathe, dolphins use a blowhole on their heads.
  • Dolphins communicate with one another by clicking and whistling.
  • They locate prey and objects in the ocean by echolocating.
  • A baby dolphin is called a calf
  • A male dolphin can live for 40 years, while a female dolphin can live for 60 years.

Types of Dolphins

Orcinus Orca

You likely know the Orcinus Orca from its more commonly used name, the killer whale. Often referred to simply as “orca,” the killer whale is the largest dolphin species. It has mostly black skin on top with white highlights and mostly white underneath.

Fully grown adults generally measure between 23 and 32 feet in length and weigh up to 6 tons. That makes it just slightly smaller than your school bus. The orca lives between 50 and 80 years and mostly hunts, roams colder waterways and coastal areas near the poles. They are seen at the Equator and in other warm waters, too.

The orca is a massive animal and expert predator and a carnivore that truly is capable of hunting and killing a whale while working in a pack. Its skin coloring helps the orca to ambush prey from above and below.

The killer whales generally travel and hunt in groups of between five and 30 and use their own unique communications via audible sounds.

Amazon River Dolphin

As its name implies, the Amazon River is this dolphin’s home. It grows to be up to 8 feet long, weighs up to 450 pounds, and lives about 30 years. It is a carnivore with a distinctively bulbous head and lengthy bottlenose that enables the dolphin to reach prey hiding beneath fallen trees and other submerged obstacles.

Its greyish skin color helps it to blend into the surroundings to avoid predators and ambush prey.

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They are most active during the annual spring rainy season in South America, which swells the Amazon River and its tributaries. The rising waters form an inland sea that enables them to range over a much wider area and capture more prey.

The inland seas generally exist for about six months before ebbing back into the more traditional watercourses of the Amazon River system.

Common Bottlenose Dolphin

The Common Bottlenose Dolphin is the most commonly occurring dolphin sub-species and is the one most people commonly think of and recognize on television and in films.

They measure between 6 and 13 feet in length, weighs between 300 and 1,400 pounds, and lives between 40 and 60 years. It has a modestly protruding bottlenose that gives it its distinctive facial features with large round eyes and a slim and sleek profile along its grayish body.

They roam waters along with the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and West Coast coastal waters. It also is found among many Pacific islands and enjoys a relatively wide and warm range.

It is among the most-known and most-studied of the dolphin sub-species. They often are the stars of aquatic shows at amusement parks, which raises questions regarding the quality of life they might have while in captivity.

Striped Dolphin

The Striped Dolphin is very similar in size and shape to the common bottlenose but features a distinctive dark stripe of color along its sides. Males generally weigh up to 350 pounds measure up to 9 feet in length.

Females generally weigh up to 330 pounds and measure up to 8 feet in length. Both sexes live for up to 58 years and generally roam the coastal waters along with New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, West Coast, and Pacific Islands.

They are carnivore that lives and roams in tight groups, often numbering between 25 and 100. Between 40 and 50 pairs of small, conical, and very sharp teeth enable it to catch and tear into prey.

They are extremely athletic and sometimes are seen leaping 20 feet or higher above the water’s surface. They are especially noted for their twisting motion while leaping through the air, known as roto-tailing.

Irrawaddy Dolphin

The Irrawaddy Dolphin looks very much like a small beluga whale but with a dorsal fin. They have a rounded face instead of a protruding bottlenose and is noted for their expressive face and ability to spit small spouts of water from their mouth and up into the air as a way of socializing.

They often roams in small packs of six or fewer, likely due to the smaller freshwater habitat. They sometimes gather in packs of 25 or so, though.

Males measure about 9 feet in length and weigh up to about 290 pounds. Females measure up to 8 feet in length and generally weigh a little less than their male counterparts.

The freshwater dolphins have a consistently gray color throughout and generally live in rivers and coastal waters along with Southeast Asia. The gray color helps them to blend into the darker river waters while hunting for food.

Spinner Dolphin

The Spinner Dolphin resembles the striped dolphin, but with a short stripe running from its eyes to the front flippers. It is lightly colored underneath and with an alternating light- and dark-gray on top.

Males generally are slightly larger than females, with adults measuring between 4 feet and 7 feet in length and weighing between 130 and 170 pounds.

They typically live about 20 years and roams the waters in Alaska, New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and West Coast, as well as Pacific Islands.

Sightings most often occur in the Pacific Islands region while the exceptionally athletic mammals leap out of the water while roto-tailing. The resulting spinning motion gives them their well-deserved name.

Spinners are carnivores that usually feed on squid, shrimp, and small fish during nighttime hours. They use the nightly migrations of smaller species to ambush them at depths ranging from about 650 feet to 1,000 feet beneath the surface.

South Asian River Dolphin

The South Asian River Dolphin is a freshwater river located mostly in southern Asian river systems. It has a long bottlenose and generally lives and hunts alone, although it sometimes is seen in small packs. They measure up to 9 feet in length, with females, generally being larger than males. They wight up to 190 pounds and live for up to 26 years.

A pair of very tiny eyes and a thick membrane covering them render them virtually blind. While near-blindness is a distinct disadvantage in most locales, it helps to protect the eye sockets against the muddy waters encountered in its river environment.

Large, relatively slow-moving river systems like the Ganges River in China carry a lot of silt and mud that make it virtually impossible to see beneath the water. The lack of visibility levels the playing field and enables them to hunt and feed effectively.

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin

The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin has an appropriately short bottlenose that gives it its very descriptive name. Adults typically weigh about 170 pounds and measure about 6 feet in length.

They feature a unique hourglass coloring created by a dark layer on top that narrows beneath the dorsal fin to create an hourglass shape. They live for up to 40 years and mostly roam waters in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, West Coast, and Pacific Islands areas.

They are highly social and travels in packs that can include dozens of dolphins. The species ranks among the most populous in the U.S. and around the globe and so closely resembles its cousin, the long-beaked common dolphin, that biologists once mistakenly thought they were the same species.

They generally travel in packs that can include hundreds and often spin and somersault while leaping through the air.

Maui Dolphin

The Maui Dolphin is the world’s most endangered species with less than 100 estimated to be living off the western coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The dolphin is a slightly larger subspecies of Hector’s dolphin.

An adult generally weighs up to 145 pounds and measures just over 5 feet in length.

They have a uniquely rounded dorsal fin that helps it to move into shallow waters more readily without exposing its dorsal fin and location to predators. Its body generally is gray in color on top with lighter coloring underneath.

They live for up to 20 years and produce offspring about two to four years.

They are carnivore and hunt in small packs and generally shares the same space as commercial fisheries. The effects of commercial gill-netting and other impacts greatly depleted the Maui Dolphin’s numbers to such an extent that its range has diminished to a very small locale.

Risso’s Dolphin

Risso’s dolphin is among the largest dolphin species. Adults measure between 8 feet and 13 feet in length and weigh between 660 and 1,100 pounds and live for about 35 years.

They do not have a bottlenose and instead have a non-descript mouth and a generally rounded head. Their bulbous heads form a crease in front that gives them a flattened profile and likely helps to stun prey.

They can dive as deep as 1,000 feet or more and stay submerged for up to 30 minutes on a single breath of air.

Risso’s generally have dark-gray bodies with light coloring underneath so that they can blend into their surroundings better and ambush prey. They sometimes roam alone but usually are in groups of 10 to 30, including other species of dolphins and whales.

Some of the more extended travel groups can number into hundreds and including whales. They live for about 35 years.

Hector’s Dolphin

Hector’s dolphin has a uniquely shaped head that forms more of a point and roams the coastal waters of New Zealand. It is a close relative of the Maui Dolphin and ranks among the smaller species.

Adults grow up to 110 pounds and measure up to 5 feet in length, which makes it one of the smallest species.

They have a rounded and dark dorsal fin that sets it apart from all other species on the New Zealand coastal waters other than its slightly larger cousin, the Maui Dolphin.

They have a tri-color skin that is mostly light gray with the dark gray dorsal fin and dark streaks from the nose to its flippers. A lighter streak beneath helps it to stay hidden from prey located beneath it.

Fun Facts about Dolphins

  • The Killer Whale that is also called an ‘Orca’ is really a type of dolphin. It is known for its large size and black and white coloring and the ability to work together to herd prey.
  • Male dolphins are called ‘bulls’ and female dolphins are called ‘cows’. The dolphin young are referred to as ‘calves’.
  • They live in groups that are called pods or schools and each can have as many as twelve individuals.
  • They exhibit playful behavior including riding waves, jumping up and out of the water, play fighting, and also interacting with swimming humans. It is due to the playful behavior that they have been popular animals with humans.
  • They swim in the water but they are air breathers just like humans. They need to resurface and use a blowhole at the top of their head for breathing purposes.
  • Dolphins use echolocation to find the exact location and distance of objects, including their food. Echolocation bounces off of the object and they can measure the distance by the amount of time it takes to bounce back or return to them.
  • They have excellent hearing and eyesight.
  • They use a variety of sounds to communicate with each other including whistles, clicks, and other noises. Scientists have spent years trying to see if they could figure out the communication and are still puzzled.
  • Dolphins often get caught in fishing nets set out by fishermen and many of the species are facing potential extinction. International organizations have banded together to protest that fishermen use special types of nets that allow the dolphins to escape.
  • Some cultures valued them as good luck while others viewed them as part of their religious beliefs.
  • One of the oldest cultures that used dolphins in their art was the ancient Minoans.