Flap your flukes! It’s National Dophin Day!
National Dolphin Day, an “unofficial” national holiday, is listed as part of the American Veterinary Medical Association Pet Health Awareness Events.
Dolphins are cetacean mammals, closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from 4 feet long— Maui’s dolphin, to 30 feet– the orca. They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves. Dolphins are carnivores, eating mostly fish and squid. They use echolocation to find their prey and often hunt together by surrounding a school of fish, trapping them and taking turns swimming through the school and catching fish. Dolphins will also follow seabirds, other whales and fishing boats to feed on the fish they scare up or discard.
They are well known for their agility and playful behavior, including interactions with other animals. Many species will leap out of the water, spy-hop and follow ships, often synchronizing their movements with one another. Scientists believe that dolphins conserve energy by swimming alongside ships, a practice known as bow-riding. Jumping into the air while swimming also conserves energy as there is less friction while they are in the air.
Dolphins live in social groups,called pods,of around twelve individuals. Pods do merge together in areas where there is an abundance of food, forming superpods that may exceed 1,000 members. Dolphins can, and do, establish strong bonds within their pods and will stay with injured or ill individuals, even helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed.
Dolphins can tolerate and recover from extreme injuries such as shark bites although the exact methods used to achieve this are not known. The healing process is rapid and even very deep wounds do not cause dolphins to hemorrhage to death. Furthermore, even gaping wounds restore in such a way that the animal’s body shape is restored, and infection of such large wounds seems rare
A study at the U.S. National Marine Mammal Foundation revealed that dolphins, like humans, develop a natural form of type 2 diabetes which may lead to a better understanding of the disease and new treatments for both humans and dolphins.