A long time ago, back in 1963, a bottlenose dolphin gains worldwide popularity when the famous movie Flipper was filmed. With the beautiful shiny skin and a mouth curved in a smile, no doubt that a new star was born.
Years afterward many of us thought that all the dolphins looked like Flipper, not knowing that there were a few more species of dolphins, some of them even living in the rivers.
Later on, the documentaries started filming more often animal movies, then the private animal channels appeared and finally with the internet all of the facts and knowledge was revealed.
How safe is to swim with dolphins? Three decades after Flipper was filmed, back in 1994, a conclusive study by the US government demonstrated that interactive programs using well-trained dolphins were not dangerous to either the dolphin or humans. Meaning that in-water dolphin interactive programs, such as swimming with dolphins, are quite safe. But, we should be aware of the fact that dolphins behavior is different in the open sea. After all, they are wild animals and if you encounter a dolphin in the ocean, it is highly recommended not to approach or provoke the animal in any way.
Luckily for us, nowadays when visiting one of the islands or vacationing somewhere at the ocean,
we can easily see them performing their shows at the waterparks and zoos, swim with them or simply attend at one of the tour trips for dolphin watching and observe them for an hour or two in their natural surroundings at the open sea.
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Bottlenose dolphins are marine mammals that live in shallow tropical waters and oceans with mild temperatures. They travel in groups of 10-20, called pods. There is a strong sense of unity between the dolphins in the group. They very much enjoy playing and hunting together. They communicate with whistles and body talk. In fact, every dolphin has a whistle on his own. Maybe they even have something like a coolest whistle that we don’t know about. Bottlenose dolphins are highly active and are often seen tail slapping, riding on bow waves created by boats, surfing waves or leaping playfully into the air. We don’t know why they’re leaping, but we want to think that is just for fun.
How are dolphins trained to perform such an awesome show for us? Dolphin trainers are the responsible ones for the dolphin’s well being. They care about their health and specific diet. For dolphins to be trained, first there should be a relationship of trust between the animal and the trainer. Then they learn to repeat certain actions by being rewarded, usually with food. Food is, by definition, a primary reinforcer for a marine mammal. When the animal is hungry and reinforced to do something and rewarded with food, it’s most likely that will repeat that action for the same reward again and again. Dolphins are also trained with toys and playful activities when they are already full. They may continue to offer behaviors long after they have eaten all of their food, simply for the positive interaction with their trainers.
Are dolphins whales or whales are dolphins? Collectively, whales, dolphins, and porpoises are marine mammals known as cetaceans. Dolphins are actually whales, belonging to the group toothed whales. The killer whale Orca is actually a dolphin, belonging to the subgroup of the oceanic dolphin family, being the largest of the dolphins. Actually, it’s all about whales after all.
The name toothed whales suggest that they have teeth and eat larger prey. Except for the fact that dolphins don’t use their teeth for eating, they simply swallow the prey. They eat fish and squid. They produce clicking sounds to find the food, a process known as echolocation. When a clicking sound hits the object in the water, it bounces back to the dolphins as an echo, from which they can work out the location, size, and shape of the object.
Dolphins eat through their mouths and breathe through their blowholes. Although they live underwater, they have to swim to the surface to breathe through the blowhole at the top of their head. The hole is open when they are out of the water exhaling and closed into the water. They can hold their breath up to 10 min. That’s why only half of their brain goes to sleep, while the other half never gets tired and always stays awake reminding them that they have to breathe. That’s why calves are born tail first so that they do not drown and their mother pushes them up to the surface for their first breath.
They have an excellent sight in and out of the water. Their eyes can move independently in different directions, which means they can look two separate persons in the eyes at the same time. Although they do the thing with their eyes, they can’t smell. They live up to 50 years.
Dolphins are extremely social and intelligent creatures. They were found playing with whales, saving people from a shark attack and even helping fishermen catch a fish by signalizing where to put their nets. Although nobody knows why do they do that, they still remain the kindest creatures of the ocean.
Humans are their main threat. They are endangered of pollution, of overfishing the fish they eat and hunting. In some countries, they are even killed for food.