8 Things You Didn’t Know About Dolphins

Dive into the fascinating world of dolphins and uncover surprising truths about their intelligence, behaviors, and unique abilities.

Sep 26, 2023By Christie Cheng
things you did not know about dolphins

Dolphins are often associated with their playful antics and friendly nature. However, there is much more to these intelligent marine creatures. This article uncovers eight facts about dolphins that provide a glimpse into their complex life in the ocean.

8. They possess extraordinary intelligence

dolphin intelligence
Photo Credit: American Humane

Among the many captivating traits of dolphins, their extraordinary intelligence undoubtedly stands out. These marine mammals are not just performers, they are problem solvers too! Did you know that dolphins use marine sponges as protective shields for their snouts while foraging? This behavior is a clear demonstration of tool use and cognitive capability.

But that's not all! Their cognitive abilities extend to advanced social behaviors, self-recognition, and empathy. Dolphins can even understand human commands and pass on learned behaviors to their offspring. These abilities confirm their status as one of the most intellectually advanced species in our oceans.

7. They communicate in complex ways

dolphin pods
Photo Credit: Days of the Year

Dolphins communicate far beyond the familiar clicks and whistles often associated with them. In their intricate language system, they use expressive body language such as tail slapping, leaping, and even playful bumps to convey different messages and emotions.

Intriguingly, every dolphin has a unique 'signature whistle,' which functions much like a human name. This allows for self-identification and facilitates communication within their pods.

6. They exhibit unique mating behavior

dolphin mating
Photo Credit: Science

Dolphins have a rather complex and unique mating behavior. Mating in dolphins is not only for reproduction but also plays a role in social bonding and establishing hierarchy within the pod. Dolphins are known to engage in mating behavior throughout the year, not limited to a specific breeding season.

Unlike many animal species where males compete for female attention, both male and female dolphins have been observed to initiate mating. What's more, similar to humans, dolphins mate for pleasure too!

5. They “see” using sound

dophin echolocation
Photo Credit: Australian Geographic

Dolphins showcase a remarkable biological adaptation known as echolocation, a kind of auditory sonar system that enables them to “see” through sound. By emitting high-frequency clicks and interpreting the returning echoes, dolphins can determine the location and shapes of objects under the water.

This echolocation ability is crucial for navigating their oceanic environment, especially in murky waters or at night when visibility is compromised. However, it's not just about navigation; dolphins use this ability for hunting and detecting predators too.

4. They sleep with half a brain awake

Photo Credit: Australian Geographic

Imagine sleeping with one eye open – this is essentially what dolphins do. A fascinating phenomenon known as unihemispheric sleep allows dolphins to keep one brain hemisphere active while the other rests. This unique sleeping pattern is critical to their survival. It allows dolphins to surface for air, stay alert to potential threats, and maintain body temperature by keeping in motion, all while being "half-asleep."

3. They are human allies in the ocean

Photo Credit: The World Wide Fund

Dolphins and humans share a long history of interaction, marked by countless heartwarming stories of sea mammals lending a helpful fin. From guiding lost swimmers back to shore, to forming protective circles around swimmers to fend off sharks, dolphins have demonstrated a remarkable understanding of humans in distress.

Some scientists speculate that these acts of interspecies help may stem from dolphins' strong sense of empathy and social solidarity, often seen within their own pods. Such instances of dolphin-human interactions not only captivate our imagination but also deepen our appreciation for these compassionate creatures of the sea.

2. They are built for impressive speed and agility

dolphin jumping
Photo Credit: New Scientist

Beyond their impressive intelligence and communicative skills, dolphins are also known for their astonishing speed and agility. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph), they are among the fastest marine animals.

This speed is facilitated by their streamlined bodies, powerful tails, and their ability to leap out of the water (a behavior known as porpoising), which reduces drag and allows them to travel rapidly. Dolphins also display acrobatic flips and spins, demonstrating their impressive agility in water. These physical attributes aren't just for show; they're vital for hunting, escaping predators, and socializing within pods.

1. They have remarkable healing abilities

dolphins swimming
Photo Credit: BBC

Perhaps one of the most astonishing traits of dolphins is their incredible healing ability. Even severe injuries like shark bites can completely heal within a matter of weeks, showing no signs of infection or significant blood loss. This rapid healing process, likely linked to their unique metabolic abilities, is not fully understood but holds great potential for human medical applications.

Additionally, dolphins have one of the fastest skin regeneration rates among animals, which contributes to their incredible healing abilities. Interestingly, a behavior known as 'dolphin medicine' has been observed, where healthy dolphins stay close to injured ones, possibly as a form of protection and social support.

There's no doubt about it - dolphins, with their blend of intelligence, adaptability, and sociability, are endlessly fascinating. The next time you spot a dolphin arcing gracefully through the waves, remember there's so much more to these creatures than their playful jumps! Curious about more? Dive into our article on “How Dolphins Help Support Life in the Ocean” to continue exploring the marvels of these incredible marine mammals.

Christie Cheng
By Christie Cheng

Christie is a dog sitter, translator, and animal lover based in New Zealand. With her trusty Sheepadoodle, Chips, she spends her days translating and caring for pups. Her articles are a fun mix of her pet-sitting adventures and personal experiences with a variety of animals. Whether she's at her cozy desk or out exploring with Chips, Christie lives a life filled with fur, feathers, and plenty of tales to tell.