7 things you might not know about dolphins
I have been fascinated by bottlenose dolphins since I was in the womb. Well, I can’t actually remember that far back so I don’t really have any idea what I was thinking about or doing, if I’m completely honest. I was probably too busy doing the backstroke or playing football, if what my mum told me was true! But if I wasn’t doing either of those things, there’s a strong possibility I was dreaming about dolphins.
1) Female dolphins will assist in the birth of another’s baby. They may even pull the baby out for them if it’s a difficult birth. While this is happening, the other dolphins swim round to protect it. Sounds like a normal day at the maternity unit to me!
2) Dolphins can drown (just one tablespoon of water in a dolphin’s lung could drown it), so from birth they have to be taught to go to the surface to catch their breath. Baby dolphins also have to learn to hold their breath while nursing. A dolphin’s blowhole is actually a kind of evolved nose that has gradually moved to the top of the head through the generations. I would love that – I could snorkel without needing a mask and pipe thing! I always end up swallowing the water… I think expelling air from the top of my head at speeds of 100mph may do me or someone else some damage, though!
3) Dolphins often practise “fish whacking”. It might sound like the latest Facebook craze, but it’s how they catch their food. They swat at their fishy victim as they try to evade capture. They can even use their high-pitched sounds to stun or paralyse the fish. No wonder my other-half ignores me – I’ve just stunned him into submission!
4) Dolphins have been in the navy! In 1971, the US Navy dispatched a team of dolphins to guard a base in Vietnam. They were “armed” with large carbon dioxide-filled hypodermic needles which were strapped to their beaks. The dolphins had been taught to hunt humans swimming in the water and prod them with their beak, delivering a fatal injection in the human’s lung or stomach!
5) The dolphin’s most dangerous enemy is humans. That says it all, really. Dolphins are intelligent, beautiful and graceful. They live their lives swimming about, minding their own business, and along comes us! Well, not me because I think I was a dolphin in another life, but that’s another story… Most dolphins are killed by fishing nets, as they get caught in them and drown. Also many countries over-fish, which means there’s less food left for the dolphins to eat.
6) Images of dolphins have been found carved far within the desert city of Petra, Jordan. As well as on my phone, my walls, my shelves…
7) Some dolphins can understand as many as 60 words. That can make up to 2,000 sentences! They also show signs of self-awareness, which is rather more than I can do after a six-day week! I could go on forever about these beautiful creatures…
And finally, I fulfilled my life-long dream of swimming with these fascinating creatures in Egypt last year. I cried my eyes out. I’d definitely recommend it! The swimming with dolphins bit, not the crying bit…
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About Julia Hickling
I have been to a few places around the world on holiday, but my favourite place was definitely Egypt. Not because of the country itself, which is full of culture and brilliant sights, but because I got to swim with dolphins while I was there! I had half an hour with a two-year-old dolphin called Sasha. He was adorable! His keepers said he had taken a shine to me as he kept nudging me to stroke his tummy.
Julia works in our customer service team