10 Incredible Dolphin Facts

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: July 15, 2022
Image Credit Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Dolphins are aquatic and cetacean mammals known for their uncommon intelligence. They can be found anywhere around the world, mostly in shallow waters on the continental shelves. They are also predominantly carnivorous, feeding majorly on fish, squid, and crustaceans. Not to mention a smooth skin type and their rounded foreheads. 

Without a doubt, dolphins are very interesting animals, which is why we have compiled a list of 10 incredible facts about Dolphins below. 

1. Dolphins Have Very Big Brains

bottlenose dolphin jumping out of the water
Dolphins are the second most intelligent species on Earth.

Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

As noted before, one of the most notable things about dolphins is their super intelligence thanks to their big brains. As a matter of fact, their brains are larger than most human brains but they are not as smart as humans. That’s because, while dolphin brains are bigger, they have smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex which makes them inferior to humans in terms of intellect and intelligence. 

However, even with all that, they are most probably the second most intelligent species on Earth today. Bottlenose dolphins are one of three creatures, apart from apes and humans, who can recognize their own reflection in a mirror. That speaks to their impressive brain power and there is more.

They are also one of few animals in the world that can use tools to their advantage. Some scientists, while documenting, found a pod of dolphins wearing sponges on their beaks while hunting to shield them from sharp rocks. Not many animals can boast that level of ingenuity. 

2. Dolphins Have Super-Developed Language Skills

Dolphins have some of the most diverse vocal ranges amongst animals. They may have a plethora of vocal sounds including moans, groans, yelps, squawks, barks, whistles, and of course, clicks. They use these sounds to communicate with one another and find objects (echolocation). 

Are you intrigued yet? Well, there is more. Some experts say in the early parts of their existence, every dolphin comes up with its own unique whistle giving them a unique identity. Since each whistle is unique, they can call for one another by simulating the whistle of the dolphin they want to communicate with. 

Little wonder, some scientists have established a link between their language and communication skills and that of humans. 

3. Dolphins Express Love…Even To Humans

Much like dogs, dolphins can express loving emotions even towards humans. A good example is the incredible dolphin, known as Peter the Dolphin who purportedly fell in love with a researcher known as Margaret Howe. The researcher was trying to get the dolphin to communicate in English and while at it, they formed an unlikely bond, which according to Howe was emotional and even sensual. 

Also, they are always willing to lend a hand and help their friends with some scientists describing them as “reciprocal altruists.” They also reportedly help humans and even whales. 

4. Dolphins Sleep With One Eye Open

Animals That Use Sonar-dolphin
A dolphin allows only half of its brain to sleep at a time.

Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

Dolphins often sleep with one eye open and contrary to what you may have just guessed, it’s not because they feel unsafe. Rather, it’s because, like whales, they don’t enjoy automatic breathing, i.e they have to consciously decide when to take every breath. However, they have mastered the art of sleeping, even with this challenge. 

Also, while sleeping, dolphins have a rare ability to only allow half of their brain to be inactive while the other half remains active as it helps them detect predators and danger. Simply genius! 

5. Dolphins Are Very Social

The truth is, there is almost zero chance that you would come across a single dolphin in the wild. They are very social beings and a group of them is called a “pod.” They often move around in pods of about 2-30 and this is mutually beneficial for their defense from predator attacks and hunting expeditions. 

Some dolphins even move in pods of hundreds, especially during mating seasons or in a space where there is plenty of food, after which they return to their smaller groups. 

FYI: Male dolphins are called bulls, female dolphins are called cows and infant dolphins are called calves. 

6. Dolphins Have The Sharpest Memories Among Mammals

A Pacific white-sided dolphin leaps out of the water in Monterey Bay, California.
Dolphins have the longest memory for a non-human species.

Chase Dekker/Shutterstock.com

We have mentioned so much about the dolphin’s brain size, intelligence, and resultant abilities and there is more. Some researchers have found that dolphins have the longest memory of any species other than people. A study revealed that they can recognize the whistles of former companions even after two decades of separation. 

Some scientists have concluded that this incredible memory can be linked to the evolution of social connections among dolphins. Because of their flexible social arrangement, it’s important for most dolphins to remember the other dolphins they like to mingle with and the ones they don’t. Kinda like humans having a preference for certain cliques and absolute disgust for some others. 

7. Dolphins Can Live Very Long

So far, we have seen a number of similarities between humans and dolphins from their language skills to their intelligence. In addition to all that, some dolphin species can also live very long; just like humans. 

An example of these species are orcas (also known as killer whales) and bottlenose dolphins. Orcas can live up to 80 years old in their natural habitat. Bottle-nose dolphins, on the other hand, usually don’t live beyond 60 years old, which is still very impressive. Some scientists believe these species live long so as to pass on some knowledge and boost the survival of their calves and grand-calves. 

8. Some Species Of Dolphins Are Endangered

While most dolphins live in oceans, there are river dolphin species that live in waterways, especially across Asia and South America. There are about five river dolphin species and all five of them are listed as either endangered or critically endangered by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN). They include:

  • Irrawaddy Dolphin (Endangered)
  • Tucuxi (Endangered)
  • Amazon River Dolphin (Endangered)
  • South Asian River Dolphin (Endangered)
  • Baiji a.k.a Yangtze River Dolphin (Critically Endangered)

Several measures are in place by conservationists to ensure that the population decline of these species becomes a thing of the past by 2030. 

9. Dolphins Are “Non-Human Persons” In India

In India, dolphins have been elevated to the status of “non-human persons.” This means they now have a right to life and certain liberties which must be duly respected. 

10. Scotland Has The World’s Largest Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins in Scottish waters are the largest in the entire world. They are visibly bigger, darker, and chunkier than their counterparts in other countries and continents. They can weigh as much as 1100 pounds and can grow up to up to 4 meters in length. For perspective, the average weight of bottlenose dolphins generally is about 331.5 to 442 pounds. 

Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.