10 Dolphin Facts That Will Fascinate You
Dolphins are some of the most majestic and most beautiful of the ocean's inhabitants. They are also quite amazing, not to mention pretty adorable. With 44 species of dolphin, 38 of which are oceanic (the rest are found in major rivers), it's no surprise that these aquatic mammals are an important part of the marine ecosystem. They're known for their friendly, happy nature, social tendencies and high intelligence. Here are 10 really fascinating dolphin facts that you may not know. Keep an eye out for these local residents during your next Topsail beach vacation!
1. Dolphins are very common on the North Carolina coast.
You may not realize that dolphins are fairly common off the North Carolina coast and can be seen swimming in pods, jumping out of the water, and frolicking with their friends along the Topsail beaches. Keep your eyes open for their tell-tale dorsal fins as they glide through the ocean waters. Go ahead and book a Topsail Island dolphin tour or sightseeing cruise while you're here!
2. Dolphins vs Porpoises: What's the difference?Dolphins typically have a bulbous head and often a clearly-defined “beak,” or long nose that sticks out from their face. Porpoises, on the other hand, usually have a rounder face without the pronounced beak. If you can’t get a good look at the head, take a peek at the fin. Dolphins have curved dorsal fins, where porpoises have dorsal fins that are more triangular in shape. This is one of the quickest ways to tell them apart, especially if you spot one while out on the water. If you are able to see the entire animal, you can tell the two apart by their size and shape. Dolphins tend to have a sleeker, more streamlined body shape than porpoises. Dolphins are also often longer, averaging about 6 to 12 feet in length, where porpoises only reach a maximum 7 feet in length. If you get a really good look, examine its teeth. Dolphins’ teeth are cone-shaped, while porpoises’ teeth are spade-shaped. Although, if you’re close enough to see the specific shape of their teeth, you’re probably a little too close! If you’re still unsure about the difference between the two—the odds are probably in your favor that it's a dolphin since there are only 6 species of porpoises worldwide.
3. Dolphins don't fully fall asleep. Ever.
Dolphins cannot fully fall asleep because they need to be conscious to breath. To solve this problem, they only rest one half of their brain at a time, altogether totaling about 8 hours of sleep a day. While sleeping, a dolphin must stay at the surface so its blowhole is not covered with water.
4. Dolphins can swim three different ways.
Dolphins can swim in any of three different ways, including resting at the surface with their blowholes above the water, resting on the floor of shallow water and rising to the surface occasionally, or swimming very slowly and occasionally surfacing to breathe. While dolphins can dive almost 1,000 feet deep, most dolphins do not spend much time diving very deep. The majority of dolphins live in fairly shallow water, and they spend the bulk of their time in waters less than 7 feet deep.
5. A dolphin's life expectancy depends on where it lives.
A dolphin's life span varies according to its environment and species. Although some bottlenose dolphins can reach 40 years of age, their average age is between 15 and 16 years. Forty is an old age for a dolphin—one making it to 40 is comparable to a human living to be 100. According to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the oldest dolphin aged scientifically in the wild was 48 years old. The dolphin life expectancy in captivity appears similar, as the oldest dolphin in captivity was over 50.
6. Dolphins are the only mammal that give birth live tail first.
Dolphins give birth to a single baby; the baby is usually born tail first (unlike most mammals) to minimize the risk of drowning. The birth can take a couple of hours. On a somewhat related note, dolphins also have bellybuttons. Unlike humans, dolphins have smooth belly buttons so their bodies are streamlined. A dolphin’s belly button marks the spot where the umbilical cord connected him or her to the mother’s placenta inside the womb. When a dolphin gives birth, the umbilical cord connecting her and her baby breaks away and the baby is left with a belly button.
7. Dolphins see with sound.
Dolphins can see with sound, they use their tell-tale clicks which travel long distances and bounce off of objects. This allows them to know how far away the object is and the shape, density, movement and texture of it. Dolphin sonar is the best within nature and superior to bats sonar and man-made sonar.
8. Dolphins have a lot of teeth but they can't chew.
If you've ever watched a dolphin eat you'll notice that they seem to gulp down their food. That's because dolphins can't chew. Instead, their teeth are used to grip prey. Dolphins do not use their 100 teeth for eating, rather for catching the fish which they then just swallow whole. They actually don't have jaw muscles for chewing!
9. Dolphins give each other names.
It has been recognized by scientists that dolphins give themselves names. They develop their own individual whistles and even after the tone of the whistle is changed, the dolphins still recognized theirs and other dolphins' names. As mentioned earlier, dolphins are highly intelligent animals with sophisticated social and communication skills.
10. You can watch the dolphins from your oceanfront Topsail rental.
How do you up your chances of seeing dolphins during your Topsail, NC beach vacation? By choosing an oceanfront vacation rental, of course. The more opportunities you have to look out over the beautiful Atlantic Ocean waters, the higher your odds of seeing a pod of dolphins swimming by. Isn't it time you booked your oceanfront Topsail rental and did some dolphin watching of your very own? Yes, yes it is!