About the dolphins
The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), one of 36 species of dolphins worldwide, lives in Dolfinarium. Did you know that all dolphins are a type of whale? And like all whales, they are not fish at all, they are mammals. That means baby dolphins come out of the mother’s belly alive – not from an egg – and the mother gives her young milk.
Dolphins in the wild
Dolphins in the wild
In the wild, dolphins are found in temperate and tropical waters. They live both in shallow coastal areas and far away from the coast, in the open ocean. Only in the colder Arctic seas you will not find dolphins. Dolphins are smart, they can adapt to many different habitats.
They eat a wide variety of fish, squid and crustaceans. Different groups of dolphins have developed distinct hunting techniques, which are passed on from generation to generation. Dolphins themselves have to watch out for predators such as orcas and large shark species.
Dolphins live in dynamic groups of about five to twenty animals, also known as a ‘pod’. They live in pods for hunting and breeding and to better defend themselves against predators. Once in a while, multiple groups of dolphins come together and form a superpod of thousands of dolphins! Then the groups split up again into new compositions. This social structure is also known as ‘fission fusion’.
Within a group of dolphins, a dominance hierarchy forms. That means one dolphin is in charge of the other dolphin. By chasing, biting and hitting each other with their tail fins, they compete for their place in the hierarchy. But they don’t really get hurt.
Usually the larger males are dominant, but smaller animals can also move to the top of the hierarchy. As long as they are tough and strong enough! Just like the group composition, the hierarchies are also constantly changing.
Dolphins mate throughout the year, but especially during the warmer summer months. The gestation period lasts twelve months – so they are pregnant for a year! After that year, the young dolphin is born, and such a young is called a calf. Just like cows!
During birth, the tail comes out first so that the calf does not drown. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it: an animal that can swim so well, but still drown? But because a dolphin is a mammal and breathes through lungs—not gills—it can. Therefore, after birth, the mother pushes the calf directly to the surface to breathe. The calf drinks milk from its mother for about two years, but after a few months it becomes interested in fish.
Dolphins have a streamlined body that allows them to easily glide through the water. And you can see how fast they can do that during our dolphin presentation Oceanica! Will you come and have a look soon?
They have three types of fins: a strong tail fin for speed, pectoral fins for steering and the dorsal fin for stability in the water, much like a boat keel. Their thick layer of mud keeps them warm in the water.
Dolphins breathe through the blowhole on top of their head, which is directly connected to the lungs. Did you know that such a blowhole is actually their nostril? They can close this with a lid when they go underwater. And they can’t smell with this nose!
Bottlenose dolphins have eighty to a hundred pointed teeth, which they use to grab the slippery fish. However, they do not chew the fish, but swallow it in one go! Could you do that too?