Dolphin & Whale Fun Facts

What is a cetacean?
Dolphins, porpoises and whales are collectively knows as cetaceans, which means they are marine mammals characterized with a nearly hairless body, no limbs but flippers and a flat tail.

What is the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise?
Dolphins and porpoise look a lot alike.  For many years people believed dolphins where porpoises and porpoises where dolphins. They are actually part of the same scientific suborder; Odontoceti, which are all the toothed whales.

However, dolphins and porpoise are two different families. The porpoises are in the family Phocoenidae and the dolphins are in the family Delphinidae. This means dolphins and porpoise differ from each other on a physical level. Dolphins can grow much larger than porpoise, have a more slender body and have a pronounced rostrum. While the family of porpoise contains some of the smallest cetaceans, have a more robust body and lack a rostrum or beak. Porpoise are also a lot shyer than dolphins and do not often come up to boats or people.

Why is a sperm whale is called sperm whale?
The name sperm whale comes from the waxy substance called spermaceti that is found in the head of this whale. Early on people believed that this waxy substance was the semen or sperm of the whale. Although we now know that this is not true the name sperm whale stayed. It is still not entirely understood function of spermaceti is.

How long do dolphins live?
There are lots of different dolphins, and they live to different ages. But the bottlenose dolphin can get to around 50years of age in the wild, and to about 40 in captivity. There is even a dolphin that is 48 years old in captivity!

How long can dolphins hold their breath?
Normally dolphins come up to breathe every few minutes. But they can hold their breath for much longer. Bottlenose dolphins can hold their breath for about 7 minutes if they have to. Orcas can hold their breath for about 15 to 20 minutes.

How deep to dolphins dive?
Bottlenose dolphins normally dive till depths of around 50 meters. However, bottlenose dolphins are capable of diving till depths of 300 meters. This record was set by Tilly, a dolphin that was trained by the US navy. Recent study into belugas revealed that this species can dive till depths up to 1250 meters. The deepest diver or all toothed whales is the sperm whale. This species can dive up to 3000 meters and keeps it’s breath for 2 hours!

What can I do to help protect dolphins?
Each of us can make a difference to help ensure the survival of marine mammals and other animals for future generations.

Things you can do:

  • Pick up any rubbish on the beaches or near drains and dispose of properly,
  • buy ‘dolphin safe’ tuna products, each sustainable seafood products,
  • do not pour hazardous waste down the drain, reduce-reuse-recycle your garbage,
  • be a responsible boater and abide by whale & dolphin-watching boating regulations,
  • When fishing, take any discarded line, bait packaging etc. with you when you leave and abide by marine parks fishing rules,
  • Support & join non-government organization campaigns by offering your financial support, signing petitions and volunteering.