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Five things you might not know about dolphins

Posted by:
Wild About Whales
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Marine mammals
Common dolphins. Photo: W.Reynolds/OEH

We all know the words to the song right? And, many of us have experienced the joy of seeing dolphins whilst we’re on a whale-watching adventure, gleefully surfing along in the waves, bounding out of the water as if they really are saying hello to us.

But how much do we really know about dolphins?

A publication produced by NSW National Parks provides an overview of everything you could possibly want to know about dolphins, specifically the bottlenose dolphins in the Port Stephens region.

Here are just a few things you might not know about these lovable creatures.

They live as desert animals

Ocean water is too salty for dolphins to drink, so they obtain their water needs from their food. So although they live in a watery environment, dolphins live as desert animals with no direct source of drinking water.

Dolphins close down half of their brains to sleep

A dolphin cannot sleep like we do as it must remain awake to surface and breathe. Scientists have conducted studies and have found that dolphins close down one half of their brain at a time and ‘sleep’ in this way for up to eight hours a day.

They have little or no sense of smell

Dolphins have little or no sense of smell because the blowhole (a dolphin’s nose) is closed underwater. They do, however, have a very sensitive tongue to compensate.

They click for their dinner

Clicking is for more than communication. These sounds travel up to 200m through the water, hit an object and bounce back, providing the dolphin with information regarding the size, shape, speed and direction of travel and distance to that object (preferably, for the dolphin, a school of delicious fish).

They would beat you in a breath-holding competition

Like all whales, bottlenose dolphins have lungs and breathe air. A dolphin must surface to breathe through the blowhole on the top of their head, usually diving for periods of one to four minutes. It takes a dolphin about one-fifth of a second to complete a full breath, and they can then hold their breath for up to 20minutes.

Want to know more? Download the complete publication: Port Stephens Bottlenose Dolphins.

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