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Interesting facts about dolphins

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Military dolphin with locator
K-Dog, a military dolphin, performed mine clearance in the Persian Gulf
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Dolphins are capable of far more than simple Sea World tricks.

"In 2004, lifeguard Rob Howes and three others were swimming off the coast of New Zealand. When they were about 300 yards out to sea, several bottlenose dolphins sped toward them, behaving very erratically. Slapping the surface with their fins and diving underneath the swimmers, the dolphins herded the group together by circling them tightly. As Howes peered beneath the water to watch them dive, he realized the dolphins were protecting his group from a great white shark heading straight for them. The dolphins fended off the shark for 40 minutes until the swimmers could safely make it to shore" - The New Zealand Herald, 2004.

Reports like this are not unknown to researchers who say dolphins are protective and will help other distressed mammals including humans in the water. According to marine biologist Rochelle Constantine, they like to help the helpless. 

Dolphins Helping People

Dolphins have aided people in intriguing ways. Because of their large brains and high intelligence, they have remarkable capabilities. There are many interesting facts about dolphins that demonstrate just how intelligent and unique they really are:

  • There are dolphins that are veterans of both Gulf wars.

  • Dolphins have been seen using tools.

  • Thousands of people have credited dolphins with having healing powers.

  • Dolphins are used as underwater agents in the military.

The ultrasound capabilities called echolocation of dolphins are better than any sonar system we currently have. Through clicking noises, dolphins send out signals that detect objects around them. The signals are extremely precise allowing dolphins to see with their sounds.

Their ability is so sophisticated that a dolphin can detect a shark a half-mile away and be able to tell if its stomach is full or empty. They can tell the size, shape, material, speed and direction of any object.

Military Dolphins

Because of this unique sonar ability, the U.S. Navy has deployed dolphins for specialized missions locating lost divers and underwater mines for the past 20 years.

Dolphins can distinguish between lethal buried mines, coral rock or debris in shallow cluttered waters, according to Whitlow Au, who studies marine bioacoustics at the University of Hawaii's Marine Mammal Research Program. They then alert their human partners to the location of the danger.

Smart Enough to Use a Fork

If they had hands, no doubt they'd learn to use utensils. Dolphins have been observed in Western Australia using sea sponges to protect their noses while foraging for food along the ocean floor. Researchers say this technique of attaching a sponge to its nose was taught to one female dolphin by her mother and that other females then picked up this specialized method of hunting.

Not only is a dolphin capable of using a tool to hunt, it can also recognize and study itself in a mirror. In a study at the New York Aquarium, scientists repeatedly marked two dolphins with temporary ink. The dolphins looked at themselves in mirrors to investigate the new markings on their bodies each time they were made.


Gentle Healers

Few things speak to the soul like a dolphin staring us straight in the eye. Researchers say that once you're in the water with a dolphin, it does a sonar scan of your body. You may feel vibrations and become extremely relaxed and happy.

Scientist David Cole of AquaThought conducts studies of people before and after they interact with dolphins. Cole says the echolocation dolphins use on us can radically improve our immune systems, our brains and our cells.

Based on that belief, there are many Dolphin Human Therapy (DHT) centers now that focus on healing therapies for people especially children. Dolphins can sense which area of the body is sick, and they are very gentle with children. At the very least, swimming with one of these graceful creatures can give you a sense of peace and relaxation said to aid in healing.

More Interesting Facts

  • Aside from being incredibly smart and friendly, dolphins have many other traits and behaviors that are fascinating.

  • Dolphins in the wild will seek out humans and surf alongside boats just for play.

  • Dolphins love to ride big waves with surfers.

  • Many dolphins will sleep with one eye open just below the surface of the water.

  • Every dolphin has a unique whistle, much like humans have thumbprints. They identify each other by these whistles.

  • A dolphin can emit a sonic boom loud enough to stun a fish.

  • It has been said that their sonar enables them to see inside living things.

  • The killer whale, or orca, is actually the largest type of dolphin.

  • Dolphins cannot drink sea water and they breathe air.

  • Baby dolphins are born tail-first so they won't drown.

  • Dolphins are very social, living their whole lives in groups called pods.

  • Dolphins are also big pranksters, often harassing turtles by rolling them over on their backs. They've been seen pulling out the tail feathers of poor pelicans minding their own business on the water.

You may have watched them play basketball at the local aquarium or you may have been lucky enough to encounter a dolphin in the wild. Either way, you were in the presence of a very social and intelligent being with a great sense of humor. For more interesting facts about dolphins, visit The Dolphin Institute for the latest in research.

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