Dolphin is the common name of aquatic mammals within the infraorder Cetacea. The term dolphin usually refers to the extant families Delphinidae (the oceanic dolphins), Platanistidae (the Indian river dolphins), Iniidae (the New World river dolphins), Pontoporiidae (the brackish dolphins), and the extinct Lipotidae (baiji or Chinese river dolphin). There are 40 extant species named as dolphins.
The most common dolphin species in captivity is the Bottlenose Dolphin.
Bottlenose dolphins inhabit warm and temperate seas worldwide, being found everywhere except for the Arctic and Antarctic Circle regions.
Bottlenose dolphins have the third largest relative brain size level of any mammal on Earth (humans have the largest), sharing close ratios with those of humans and other great apes, which more than likely contributes to their high intelligence and emotional intelligence.
Bottlenose dolphins can live for more than 40 years. Females typically live 5-10 years longer than males, with some females exceeding 60 years. This extreme age is rare and less than 2% of all bottlenose dolphins will live longer than 60 years.
Bottlenose dolphins can jump to a height of 20 feet in the air.
Why They Matter
Dolphins play an important role in keeping their environment in balance. They eat other animals – mainly fish and squid – and are themselves a source of food for some sharks and other creatures.
Without dolphins, the animals they prey on would increase in number, and their predators wouldn’t have as much to eat. This would disrupt the natural balance in the food chain and could negatively affect other wildlife and the health of the ocean environment.
As keystone species, they help maintain biodiversity of the ecosystems they inhabit.
Ovearall, the future of bottlenose dolphins is stable because of their abundance and adaptability. However, specific populations are threatened due to various environmental changes. Local climate change, such as increasing water temperature may play a role going forward.
In United States waters, hunting and harassing of marine mammals is forbidden in almost all circumstances, from passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.