The Dolphin

Dolphins are part of the family of toothed whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. They are highly intelligent marine mammals. They are found worldwide, mostly in shallow seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating fish and squid. Dolphin coloration varies, but they are generally gray in color with darker backs than the rest of their bodies.

Most of the species live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. Five species live in the world’s rivers.

Dolphins are well known for their agility and playful behavior, making them a favorite of wildlife watchers. Many species will leap out of the water, 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.

Dolphins live in social groups of five to several hundred. These groups are called pods. They use echolocation to find 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 opportunistically on the fish they scare up or discard.

Dolphins mate throughout the year with a gestation period of 9 – 17 months depending on the species. When it’s time to give birth, the female will distance herself from the pod, often going near the surface of the water. She usually gives birth to one calf. As soon as the calf is born, the mother must quickly take it to the surface to take its first breath. A calf will remain with its mother until its between 3 and 8 years old.

Most dolphins live long lives. The bottlenose dolphin can live over 40 years.
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