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What are dolphins?
Dolphins are vertebrate aquatic mammals. They can be found in rivers and seas all over the world, as well as in zoos and aquariums. They are generally classed as being ‘toothed whales’ and although they may be similar in appearance to a shark, they are in no way related. Dolphins are often mistakenly referred to as fish, but there are many distinguishing features which mean that they firmly belong in the category of mammal.
Firstly, they are warm-blooded and able to regulate their own body temperature, whereas fish are cold-blooded animals. Secondly, they move their tails in a vertical direction whilst fish propel themselves through the water using lateral tail movements. Thirdly, they do not lay eggs but instead give birth to live young. Fourthly, they nurse these young with milk produced from mammary glands. Finally, they do not have gills and instead must return to the surface of the water in order to breathe.
Dolphins are incredibly streamlined creatures so that they can swim long distances at fast speeds. There are some species of dolphin, such as the killer whale, which can travel at speeds of up to 35 knots. They are extremely prolific hunters and are so efficient at catching food that they are left with hours in their day in which they can play and enjoy themselves.
Dolphins are a major part of the tourist industry in many vacation locations. Organized dolphin watching tours and ‘swim with dolphins’ experiences are responsible for a huge injection of money into the economy and attract tourists to specific locations from all over the world. Some people travel from different countries to watch dolphins perform in spectacular shows and seeing dolphins in the wild is on many a bucket list.
A dolphin is a class of animal rather than being a species in its own right. When most people think of dolphins, they tend to think of the bottlenose dolphin. Although this is one of the most common dolphins and certainly seems to get the most media exposure, not all dolphins look exactly as the bottlenose dolphin does. There are 40 different species of dolphin which all have identifying features and colorings. The idea of a ‘dolphin’ is actually subject to much more variation than you might have thought. Dolphins can weigh anything from 90 lb to 10 tonnes, they can range from 5 feet to 30 feet long and come in pink, blue, grey, black, white and brown.
What are dolphins?