20 April 2014 - DOLPHINS



DOLPHINS
G'day folks,

Today I feature another of my favourite creatures - DOLPHINS.

Dolphins are very intelligent and they seem to be well loved by humans. This aquatic mammal has been able to fascinate us in a variety of ways. They are curious, form strong bonds within their pod, and they have been known to help humans in a variety of circumstances including rescues and with fishing.

There are 36 different species of dolphins that have been recognized. 32 of them are marine dolphins which are those that we are the most aware of and 4 of them are river dolphins. It can be very interesting to look at each of these species uniquely versus dolphins as a whole.


They are very entertaining due to the leaps that they make out of the water. Some of them leap up to 30 feet in the air as they do so. They have to come to the surface to for water at different intervals to get air. This can be from 20 seconds to 30 minutes between when they get air. The body of the dolphin is grayish blue and the skin is very sensitive to human touch and to other elements that could be in the water.

Even though dolphins have 100 teeth, they don’t use them for eating. They do use them to get the fish though and then they swallow them. They can consume up to 30 pounds fish per day. They usually work as a team in their pod to get the school of fish surrounded and balled up. From there, they can plow through the middle and eat plenty as they do so.

They take turns doing this so that all that participated get to dine on the fish. This is just one of the many different types of feeding strategies that they may take part in. They do what is necessary to get the food for the pod members. It can include jumps, zig zag patterns, circles, and a combination of efforts to get the job done.

Most of the species of dolphins live in saltwater but there are some that are able to do well in the freshwater locations. They are mainly found in the freshwater of the Amazon River. They are easily seen by humans as they tend to stick to the swallow locations of the water.

It is amazing the difference in size of the various species of dolphins. The larger ones can weigh about 11 tons and be close to 30 feet long. The smaller ones are about 90 pounds and 4 feet long. Between those two spectrums you will find all weights and lengths. The species as well as their location play a huge role in their overall size.

The body of a dolphin is designed to help them move through the water quickly and without exerting huge amounts of energy. They rely on their pectoral fins and the fluke (tail) to help them navigate through the water.

Through extensive research, echolocation has been identified as a key element of dolphin life. It allows them to communicate in the water by identifying sound waves. It is a complex ability that stems from the melon that is located in the head of a dolphin. All dolphin species have a blowhole.


Dolphins have very good vision, and they are able to see what is around them both in the water and when they are above the surface of it. They have excellent hearing too, with the ability to hear about 10 times better than humans. The sense of smell isn’t well developed for them though. The sense of touch is very sensitive for dolphins and they use it for bonding within their pods. They rely on a combination of their senses to avoid danger, to find food, and to socialize.

Even though we have plenty of information about dolphins today, there are plenty of questions that remain about their past. There are theories of evolution and even some fossil remains that have surfaced to give clues. It is believed that millions of years ago the dolphins were much smaller than they are today. Many experts also believe that echolocation is a result of the evolution process. Only time and advances in technology though will help us to get definite answers about the evolution of dolphins.
  
Dolphin Habitat and Distribution
Dolphins live in saltwater but they can also live in freshwater locations. Only a handful of the species though are known to thrive in freshwater regions. They tend to stick to the shallow areas of the water found along the continental shelves.

Dolphin Feeding
Since wild dolphins catch and eat their food underwater and research is expensive and often hard to do, most of the data regarding their feeding habits has come from analyzing the contents of the stomachs of dead animals that wash up on the beach.

Dolphin Reproduction
Dolphins, like almost all mammals, give birth to live young, and nurse them with mammary glands, though it boggles the mind to imagine nursing underwater. But the birth of a dolphin starts long before his babyhood; it starts with how Mom and Dad first met.

Dolphin Evolution
There are many telling signs that the dolphin is related to terrestrial origins. The fact that they need to come to the surface of the water to get air is the most dominant factor. 

Dolphin Intelligence
If you were to step out into the street and ask the first ten people you see whether or not they believed dolphins were creatures of intelligence, 8 of 10 would probably say yes.

Dolphin Predators
Dolphins are not chicken of the sea; yet it would appear that they make a tasty meal for many predators. And why not? With an exceptionally high fat content, dolphin and other cetacean meat provides great nutrition for predators who stalk.

Dolphin Social Structure
Many researchers agree that dolphins extremely social creatures and actually seem to depend on this interaction while hunting, mating and defending themselves and their pods. Typically, dolphins live and travel in groups ranging from 2-40 dolphins. Research has also shown dolphin pods as large as several hundred members.


Dolphin Species Overview

There are 36 species of dolphins found in the world.There are 32 marine dolphins, and 4 river dolphins. They live mainly in saltwater such as the oceans but some of them live in freshwater and they are able to do very well there. They tend to live in the shallow water by the coast and they tend to live in warmer locations. The name dolphin comes from the word womb, and it is believed to be the Greek saying for fish with a womb.

You may hear dolphins referred to by various names. The young are called calves and the female adults are cows. The male adults are bulls and a group of them is often called a pod. Sometimes, you may hear them referred to as a school. There are plenty of differences among the species of dolphins and that is why they have been broken down in to various categories.

The distinctive populations of them stem from the DNA code. What has been noted is that the different species have vary different codes which sets them apart from each other far more than researchers had originally believed. The DNA code is how a discovery was made that identified a separate species of dolphin than what had been looked at before.

  In 2011, a new dolphin’s species was found in Big City Harbor around Australia. The Burrunan Dolphin is believed to be only in two areas at this time. There are about 100 of them in Port Phillip Bay around Melbourne and about 50 more of them in the coastal lakes of Gippsland which is about 100 miles away.


Studies also indicate that there are differences among the species of dolphins in terms of their skull size and design. When they are looked at closely, there are slight variations that have been noted. There are some other differences too including some having a curved dorsal fin instead of straight and changes to the snout. Here is some information about some of the commonly known species. It can be an interesting though to take one at a time and learn more about them.

The type of dolphin you will see in a given area depends on environmental factors such as enough food and the temperature. The time of year also is a factor due to the heavy migrational efforts of most dolphins. Perhaps the most common of all dolphins is the Bottlenose Dolphin. This is the one you often see in books, movies, and when you visit an aquarium. They are very intelligent, easy to train, and they are more likely to approach humans in the wild than other species.

River Dolphins live in freshwater, and they are found in a variety of rivers around South America and Asia. They are smaller than most dolphins, with an average size of about 8 feet when fully mature. They can be various colors too including brown, gray, or black.

The Roughed Tooth Dolphin is harder to spot out there in bodies of water because they prefer the deeper locations. They can weigh about 350 pounds and measure about 8 ½ feet long. They have a small head and feature a long beak. They are also lacking the common crease on the melon that other dolphins have.


The square shaded head of the Risso Dolphin is a telling sign of what species you are seeing. They don’t have any teeth in the upper jaw but they have several peg like teeth on the bottom jaw. They are frequently found in captivity on display because they thrive in such an environment.

The Striped Dolphin gets its name from the blue and white stripes on the body. This species is believed to have the highest population as well as the biggest overall distribution of that population. If you want to be impressed by acrobatics, check out the Spinner Dolphin. People love to see them perform both in the wild and when they have been trained in captivity.

The Common Dolphin is very simple in design, but also very respected in the early cultures. Researchers have found items from the Ancient Greek and Roman times. The Dusky Dolphins tend to live in water that is cooler than the temperatures for other species of dolphins. They can be found along the coastal regions as well.


The Killer Whale is believed to be the most powerful of the dolphins due to their size and their strength. They can take down seals effortlessly which is important due to the significant volume of food that they can consume on a daily basis. The Pilot Whale can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and be up to 24 feet long. They are believed to be the most social of the dolphin species. They are also very vulnerable to pollution in their habitat.


Clancy's comment: Wow, magnificent, eh?





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