A creature you just have to see to believe!
The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is probably the #1 wildlife attraction that encourages visitors to get out and explore our Georgia tidal marsh environment. Their sheer size, some weighing in at as much as 1300 pounds, elicits gasps of delight as they surface next to a kayak, paddleboard or boat. And due to their social nature and intelligence, they continually amaze onlookers with their antics. These remarkable creatures also have some unique characteristics that may surprise you.
Wow your family and friends with these fun facts!
One of the most extraordinary things to consider about this small whale (Yep! They’re WHALES!), is that it NEVER stops moving. Because it has to come to the surface and breathe every 1-3 minutes, and as it has no natural buoyancy, from the moment it is born, a dolphin is in nonstop motion. This poses some interesting questions.
• How does a dolphin sleep?
A dolphin’s brain (larger than the human brain) is split into two hemispheres just like ours. However, the two halves are not connected by a network of nerves like the human brain. This allows dolphins to shut down half their brain and let it rest, while the other half stays alert enough to bring them to the surface to breathe and keep an eye out for predators. It’s like sleeping with one eye open!
• How much does a dolphin need to eat if it is moving all the time?
In constant motion, a dolphin has a monster metabolism. An average-sized, 440-pound dolphin needs to consume up to 33,000 calories a day! For you or I to get anywhere near that, we’d have to eat something like 500-600 chicken nuggets. That’s not on the menu for the dolphins, though, so they’ll devour around 50 pounds of fish, eel, squid and shrimp. PER DAY!
One of the most extraordinary things about being on the water this time of year is the increased likelihood of spotting a mama dolphin with her calf. As extremely intelligent creatures, dolphins know that the healthiest time to deliver their babies is the spring and summer, when their little ones can begin their journey in warmer, better-stocked waters. When calves are born, they are about 3½ feet long and weigh in at around 30 pounds. They have a higher percentage of body fat to keep them more buoyant as they learn to swim, and they keep close to their mother. This enables them to take advantage of her “slipstream,” and mimic her motions for proper muscle development. A dolphin’s gestation period is 12 months, so this time of year is also ideal for witnessing fascinating mating behaviors.
We’ve just barely scratched the surface of this amazing marine mammal with the informational tidbits above.
By Anneliza Itkor, Outside Hilton Head
For more than 30 years, Outside Hilton Head has provided personalized adventures for all ages, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to history excursions and standup paddle-boarding. (843) 686-6996 or outsidehiltonhead.com.