So, today is National Dolphin Day. Of course dolphins seem happy every day – but here are ten special things you might not know about the ocean’s biggest grinners:
Killer whales are dolphins
Yes, the big mean orcas are just big misunderstood dolphins. They are top dog in every ocean ecosystem, despite being dressed in silly panda suits.
Dolphins are born tail first
Being a mammal and giving birth at sea is no mean feat, and every baby dolphin comes into the world in reverse. If you’re lucky enough to see a very young dolphin you might also notice that they look ‘creased’ from where they were folded up inside their mothers. A healthy diet of fatty dolphin milk soon irons out those creases though.
Dolphins have built in sonar
Dolphins navigate and find their food using echolocation. This bounces noise off objects and their surroundings to ‘see’ in surround sound. Bats also use echolocation in this way, but sadly dolphins have never been immortalised as a caped comic crusader.
Dolphins rescued Dick Van Dyke!
No, this is not a deleted scene from Mary Poppins! In 2010 cinema legend Dick Van Dyke claimed that his life was saved by ‘porpoises’. Though he probably meant dolphins. Or he may have been talking supercalifragilisticexpialinonsense.
Scottish dolphins are the best
Okay, maybe not the best, but Scottish bottlenose dolphins are the biggest in the world. Probably because Scottish seas are a bit chilly as every child who has been to St Andrews beach in ‘summer’ knows to their cost, and being bigger means you lose less heat. Scottish dolphins are also pretty easy to see from shore, or on a boat trip, and support a thriving ecotourism industry in the Moray Firth.
Some dolphins live in the trees
Not all dolphins live in the sea, with a handful of species preferring freshwater and living in tropical rivers. That means that in the flooded waters of the amazon, river dolphins swim amongst the trees.
Dolphins have central heating & cooling systems
Because they are covered in a blubbery coating to stay warm, dolphins have to take special measures to regulate their temperature. They use clever circulation to cool down blood in their fins and send it where staying cool matters most.
Dolphins call each other names
No, not mean names like ‘Fishbreath’ or ‘Beaky’! Scientists have discovered that complex dolphin communication includes referring to each other by a given ‘name’.
Not all dolphins look the same
There are about 40 species of dolphins: some have no beak, some have no fin on their back, some are black and white, some are pink, some have go-faster stripes, and some are covered in scars. The one thing they do have in common is conical shaped teeth that are perfect for catching fish and squid on the move.