Dolphins are mythical creatures, known for their intelligence and friendly disposition towards humans. There are many different species of dolphin, but bottlenose dolphins are the ones we are most familiar with—they are the dolphins we are used to seeing on the TV and in films: remember Flipper? Lots of people dream of swimming with dolphins and bottlenose dolphins are also quite likely to be the star attraction at sea life centres, thanks to their acrobatic skills and love of performing in front of an audience. But how well do we really know bottlenose dolphins? Read on and find out 10 interesting facts about bottlenose dolphins.
1. After about four minutes of being underwater, you and I would probably drown, but a dolphin is able to stay underwater and hold its breath for up to 15 minutes, although most bottlenose dolphins do not dive for longer than a few minutes at any one time.
2. The deeper we dive, the greater the effects of water pressure, which is why humans find it harder to dive to a significant depth without the aid of a protective diving suit. Dolphins, however, can dive to depths of at least 260 meters below the surface, although they prefer to stay near the surface in order to enjoy easy access to air.
3. Dolphins cannot fall into a deep sleep because they need to be conscious in order to breathe. But sleep is essential, even for dolphins, so they have evolved to allow only half of their brain to sleep at any given time. Research on bottlenose dolphins has indicated that dolphins are able to sleep for around 8 hours per day like this.
4. There have been many extraordinary stories of bottlenose dolphins helping other animals and humans in peril. Whether all of the legends and myths are true is perhaps debateable, but one thing is certain: bottlenose dolphins are incredibly intelligent and do seem to have a special affinity with humans.
5. The characteristic clicking noises emitted by bottlenose dolphins are part of their sophisticated echolocation system: the squeaks, whistles and clicks help the dolphin work out how far away prey is.
6. Bottlenose dolphins are able to defend themselves against many vicious predators, even sharks. For example, a dolphin will punch a shark in the gills or belly, which can kill the animal. Calves and sick dolphins are far more vulnerable, however.
7. A pregnant dolphin does not have to give birth alone: she is usually accompanied by another dolphin (male or female) and this helper will be the only dolphin allowed near the calf once it has been born.
8. Bottlenose dolphins can live up to 50 years of age, but their life expectancy differs greatly depending on which part of the world the dolphin lives in.
9. Bottlenose dolphins may live in the ocean, but they don’t drink the salty water. Instead they get their fluids from the fish they consume.
10. Dolphins will strand themselves on a beach when very sick or injured; it has also been known for larger groups of dolphins to beach themselves, a phenomenon known as a “mass stranding”, and the cause of which is not really understood.