What is a Dolphins Diet
Dolphins (family Delphinidae) are cetacean mammals which means they are related to whales, porpoises and other animals that live in the sea. They’re not fish, though, because they give birth to live young, air-breathe and have hair.
There are around 40 species of dolphins in total (35 of these live in the oceans), all with different sizes, shapes and habits. Some dolphins like orcas hunt together in big groups while others like boto prefer life independently or with just a few companions. But one thing all dolphins have in common is their love for Fish!
Dolphins tend to eat mainly other kinds of Fish, but there are exceptions to the rule! Some dolphins eat squid, and others eat octopus and two species of dolphin in Australia even snack on sharks. Only the killer whale hunts other marine mammals, but most dolphins love Fish so much they are happy to track them together with their kith and kin!
How do dolphins find Fish:
Fish are not always easy to find for land-dwelling animals like us, but underwater is different. Dolphins use sonar to work out where their prey hides in the dark ocean depths. They have particular ‘ear bones’ that amplify sounds in the same way that an old fashioned ear trumpet works!
This helps them focus on their prey in rough seas or strong currents where visibility is reduced. The echolocation abilities of many dolphins are so highly developed that they can detect Fish only 5cm (two inches) in length!
How do dolphins catch their food:
Just like cats have ‘fish-shaped’ eyes to help them see in the dark, dolphins have particular adaptations for finding their prey. A dolphin’s vision is not too shabby either, though.
They can easily make out a human diver or boat from several hundred metres away – no doubt they spot us thanks to our bright coloured wetsuits! Dolphins also have an excellent sense of touch thanks to nerve endings just below the skin that allow them to feel when something touches them. Their whiskers are very sensitive and can probably feel when water moves past at high speed, which helps them be aware of currents and even pick up on vibrations in the water.
What dolphins eat depends on which species you’re talking about – there are over 40 different kinds of dolphins, after all! The giant dolphins are almost 10 metres (30ft) long and weigh more than three tonnes, while the smallest is less than two metres (six feet) long. So there’s plenty of variation in what each kind of dolphin needs to eat.
For example, orcas eat crabs, squid and sometimes even other marine mammals like seals or sea lions, while bottlenose dolphins snack on shrimps near coral reefs. For a real feast, please take a look at the beak-like snout of the Irrawaddy Dolphin that is lined with sharp edges that turn it into a fish-catching machine!
Why do dolphins hunt in packs:
One successful way dolphins find their food is by herding it. By corralling the Fish together, the dolphins make it much easier for themselves to catch them! Herding can take place on or near coral reefs with plenty of places for the fish to hide. For example, spotted dolphins work together so well they often herd shoals of mullet right onto mud banks –
this makes it easy for them to chew up all the Fish that get trapped when they try to escape. Bottlenose dolphins also hunt in groups, but instead of chasing their prey onto land like spotted dolphins, they prefer working together underwater to confuse large shoals of Fish and surround them.
Can dolphins drink salt water:
Although we often think of Fish as marine animals, they live in the freshwater sections of rivers and lakes, too, so only a few species of dolphin need to drink fresh water. Dolphins can’t store freshwater as we do, so after eating salty Fish and squid, they must come up to the surface and ‘spit’ out excess salt from their body – fantastic for ridding themselves of unwanted salt but bad news if you’re a starving dolphin because you’ll be way behind your prey!
Spinner dolphins have found a clever solution to this problem by rotating their bodies as they jump out of the water – as they spin through the air, seawater passes through special glands around their mouth where it is turned into freshwater!
A healthy dolphin diet consists of around 50 to 80 per cent squid, 10 to 30 per cent fish and some crustaceans. The remainder of the diet comprises various types of shellfish, such as clams and crabs. Bottlenose dolphins often eat octopus, mackerel and herring, while the Risso’s dolphin consumes large quantities of eels and other fish that live in deep-sea trenches. For more information, see What Do Dolphins Eat?
How do dolphins communicate with each other:
As if their vocal abilities weren’t impressive enough already, dolphins can also ‘talk’ to each other using a series of high pitched clicks called echolocation (say: eh-oh-loc-AYE-shun) – this allows them to ‘see’ the world around them in much the same way that radar works!
By clicking at varying frequencies, dolphins can determine how far away something is, whether there’s a sandbank ahead and what size it is. Bottlenose dolphins even use echolocation to track down squid hiding in rock crevices or octopuses buried deep inside holes.
Why are baby dolphins born first:
Dolphins are mammals which means they have their babies with life, rather than laying eggs like many fish species. Like most land mammals, baby dolphins are also born head first so that they can breathe straight away!
To avoid injury on the journey from Mum’s body to the outside world, the baby dolphin’s fins and tail are folded inwards. This also helps it get into the birthing position that all dolphins use – known as the dorsal presentation (where the baby is born on its back).
Why do dolphins jump out of the water:
While we often marvel at their ability to leap high into the air, a dolphin’s main reason for jumping is a lot more straightforward – they’re just really excited! Dolphins show enthusiasm with lots of body movements such as head shaking or flukes slapping on the surface of ocean waves.
When a group of dolphins jumps together, it can be seen as a form of play because these intelligent mammals usually work together in pairs or triplets when hunting fish shoals too. In some cases, we’ve even seen dolphins jumping out of the water and doing somersaults!