It’s Dolphin Day y’all! Let’s celebrate those playful cetaceans who always seem to have a smile on their face! Usually, when you think of dolphins, you probably think of the Bottlenose Dolphins you’ve seen in movies, TV shows, and aquariums…but did you know there are over 40 species of dolphins? There are even dolphins that live in freshwater rivers, like the Amazon River Dolphin (or Boto). And did you know that the largest species of dolphin is actually one you’ve probably heard of: the Killer Whale (or Orca)! Yes, it turns out the famous whale is actually in the Dolphin family!
In fact, several creatures we often call “whales” are actually dolphins. What makes a sea mammal a dolphin and not a whale? The designation is a bit tricky. Dolphins and whales are both cetaceans, a group of aquatic mammals that also includes porpoises. Superficially, dolphins are typically smaller and more streamlined than whales, and they have conical teeth. Many dolphins can be recognized by their elongated beaks, although not all dolphins possess such a distinctive snout. Scientifically, the term “dolphin” includes cetaceans in the families Delphinidae, Platanistidae, Iniidae, Pontoporiidae, and Lipotidae. This includes such “whales” as the Pilot Whale, the False Killer Whale, the Pygmy Killer Whale and the Melon-headed Whale. Turns out, they’re all dolphins!
These highly intelligent mammals are also social creatures, and they have been known to use tools and show evidence of “culture”…which is something that was previously thought to be a trait exclusive to us humans (if you’re a dolphin reading this, please accept our apology for assuming your species)! Certain species will use sea sponges on their snouts to help forage for food, and others use sticks for mating displays. Dolphins are also known to help and care for those that are wounded, injured, or in danger from predators…they even do this with other species, and have been observed helping other whales and even humans in times of need!
Ever wonder where the word “Dolphin” comes from? As it happens, it can be traced back to the Ancient Greek word “Delphis”, which means “a fish with a womb”; indicating that despite their fish-like appearance, dolphins are mammals who give birth to live young. Dolphins have appeared on Ancient Greek murals and artwork, and feature in their myths and legends as helping creatures and signs of good fortune, perhaps due to their propensity to help humans in real life!
Hopefully these little tidbits helped you learn more about these fascinating creatures on this Dolphin Day. To explore more, you can check out our Safari Ltd.® dolphin offerings, including three different bottlenose dolphins, and our dolphin calf will help you create your own dolphin pod! And don’t forget our Dolphin Good Luck Minis®, and our Whales & Dolphins TOOB® which features not only a bottlenose dolphin, but also a common dolphin, a spotted dolphin, and a Pacific white-sided dolphin.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: Dolphins sometimes gather in huge groups called “superpods” that can contain several thousand individual animals!