The popular television series Pinball and Dolphin shows in Water Parks, dolphins are well known to everyone. The intelligent, inquisitive and playful animals are native to all oceans and often accompany boats there to ride on their bow waves. Some species reach top speeds of 50 km / h.
Dolphins belong to the toothed whales and, with 40 species, make up the largest variety within the whale family. Like their great relatives, dolphins are mammals that give birth to their offspring and then suckle for about a year. Afterwards the boys usually stay with the mother for another 3-4 years. After 5-12 years, dolphins are sexually mature and reproduction usually begins some time later. The life expectancy is 25-30 years, but in captivity the animals reach a respectable age of 50 years.
1. The dolphin listens with his jaw
Due to its streamlined body, the dolphin is perfectly adapted to its aquatic habitat. The powerful caudal fin, the muscular body and the constantly new peeling skin ( called peelingin professional circles ) ensure trouble-free and smooth gliding through the seas and rivers. The smallest dolphin species grows just over a meter tall, while the mighty orca reaches a stately eight meters.
In the head of the dolphins is located next to a large brain and the so-called melon, which allows the marine mammals echolocation , with the help of which they find their prey unerringly. Dolphins, despite the lack of auricles, have a very good ear – they hear with their lower jaw , which forwards the vibrations to the brain. Within the dolphin schools, the groups are called, the animals communicate with each other via a series of clicks, whistles, chatters and even jump acrobatically out of the water.
By the way: The bottlenose dolphin and other dolphin species only sleep one half of their brains at a time , the other controls the vital body functions. One eye is always open to spy on enemies.
You can see well below as well as above water to look for prey. Their breathing is very different from that of the fish: dolphins have no gills, but a lung, which is why they have to appear regularly to breathe .
The natural enemies of the dolphin are sharks and for smaller species also orcas, but also man. Often the marine mammals accidentally fall into the nets of deep-sea fishing and end up there as so-called bycatch. Although dolphins must actually be protected as whales by the International Whaling Commission, some countries, especially Japan, override this prohibition and specifically target these animals. The most beautiful dolphins are sold to Sea World and other amusement parks, the others are killed and sold under a false name.
2. Dolphins live predatory and are very intelligent
Dolphins have small pointed teeth that they can use to grab their favorite prey (cuttlefish and fish). Only the orca hunts for seals, smaller whales and other dolphins and even fishes with sharks. Dolphin schools often spot fish shoals, circle them around or drive them together to eat them. Your diet is therefore pure animal.
The social behavior of the animals has been studied especially for the bottlenose dolphin and the common dolphin, as these dolphin species are very widespread. Within loose schools there is no strong hierarchy , the animals hunt together, protect themselves and even help with births. Due to their high learning ability bottlenose dolphins and common dolphin are common in dolphinariums for entertainment. The training is based on the concept of positive reinforcement: the animals are rewarded with fish when the task is completed.
Dolphins are not only kept as zoo attractions by humans, but are even part of the American and Russian navy . Because of their quick comprehension, they help with salvaging military equipment from the water or can even attach mines. As well as the breeding for entertainment purposes, such projects are in the justified criticism of animal rights organizations, which criticize the unnatural and not species-appropriate habitats and tasks of animals.
According to recent research, dolphins can consciously reflect on their lives and recognize themselves in the mirror. A life in captivity leads to diseases and behavioral problems in the animals. Overall, your life expectancy in captivity is significantly lower . This is mainly because an attitude in a dolphinarium for such large, fast and intelligent animals can never be appropriate to the species. There are even reports that some dolphins, like orcas, even committed deliberate suicide in captivity.
To observe the animals in their natural environment, you can participate in guided whale watching, for example on Mallorca in the Mediterranean or Atlantic Ocean. Also in the Baltic Sea dolphins are spotted in recent years.