10 facts about Dolphins

Pod of dolphins
Fascinating Facts

Dolphins are marine mammals known for their intelligence. They are found all over the world in almost all aquatic environments, including around the coast of New Zealand. 

Here are 10 facts about dolphins that you might not have know. 

1. Many different types

There are around 40 different species of marine dolphins found. They can be found in oceans, coastal and estuarine environments, and freshwater. Dolphins can adapt to a wide range of temperatures, from icy Antarctic waters to warm tropical seas.

2. Some are only found here

New Zealand has 2 endemic species - Māui and Hector's dolphins. With grey, white, and black markings and a distinct snout without a beak, their flat, black dorsal fin resembling a Mickey Mouse’s ears, sets them apart from other dolphins that have a pointed dorsal fin. 

3. Freshwater dolphins 

The Amazon River is home to 4 species of dolphins that have adapted to life in freshwater and are found nowhere else on Earth. Some of them are pink.

4. Fast Swimmers

Dolphins are known for their impressive swimming abilities, and bottlenose dolphins can reach speeds of over 40km/hour for brief periods, although they usually travel at about 3km/hour.

5. Clever Hunters

Dolphins are skilled hunters and have some interesting hunting techniques. Some use bubbles to herd their prey to the surface and stun fish with their tail in a technique called "fish-whacking."

two dolphins
©Richie Robinson / WWF

Two Hector's dolphins showing their distinctive colouring and dorsal fin

6. Chatty Creatures

Dolphins are very talkative animals, and they communicate with each other using a variety of sounds that have been described by humans as whistles, clicks, squawks, squeals, buzzes and even barks.

7. Smart

Dolphins are known for their intelligence, and they have some unique abilities. For example, they are one of the few species, along with apes and humans, that can recognise themselves in a mirror. Dolphins have also been known to use tools, such as marine sponges.

8. Half asleep

Did you know that dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time? It allows them to keep one eye open to watch for predators and to make sure they stay with their group.

9. Under Threat

Many dolphin species are threatened and few more so than our Māui dolphins. Living close to shore, accidental entanglement in fishing nets is likely the largest cause of human-caused Māui dolphin mortality. 

10. Conservation efforts

Around the world WWF is working to save many endangered dolphin species. In New Zealand we are using cutting edge technology to learn more about Māui and Hector's dolphins and fisheries to reduce interactions with fishing vessels and protect these precious species.

Dolphins are incredible animals, and we need to do all we can to protect them and their habitats.

By adopting a dolphin you can support ongoing research and conservation efforts and help secure a brighter future for our oceans.