Are Dolphins Carnivores?

Yes, dolphins are carnivorous marine mammals.

In fact depending on the species these marine mammals are known to eat a wide variety of foods such as fish, squid, octopus, crustaceans and cephalopods as well as other marine mammals.

While smaller dolphin species tend to stick to a diet of fish and other small prey larger species such as the killer whale and false killer whale (both belong to the dolphin family) are known to hunt and attack larger prey such as seals, sea lions, seabirds, penguins, sharks and even large whales.

Among all of the cetacean species the killer whale and false killer whale are the only cetaceans known to hunt other marine mammals for food.

The reason the killer whale was given the name “killer whale” is because it is the largest of the dolphin species and also has the largest diversity of foods, which include other marine mammals and various large animals as described above.

The false killer whale (which is the third largest species in the dolphin family) received its name because it is similar in appearance to the killer whale and also has large diverse diet, however despite both being dolphins these marine mammals are not closely related.

In addition to dolphins the cetacean family also includes all species of whale and porpoise.

The cetacean species is broken down into one of two suborders based on the characteristics of these marine mammals.

These two suborders are known as the toothed whale and baleen whale suborders.

All species of dolphins belong to the toothed whale suborder due to the fact that they all possess teeth, use echolocation and have a single blowhole.

Overall there are around 40 + species of dolphin recorded so far.

In order for dolphins to capture their prey these marine mammals use a number of different team oriented hunting methods.

One of these strategic hunting methods involves a group of dolphins surrounding and circling their prey in order to block their prey from escaping.

The dolphins will continue circling their prey in order to force them into a small dense ball.

Once they have their prey trapped together and isolated the dolphins will swim through the ball one or two at a time and pick off the fish as they lay bundled together and helpless.

Another method often used by coastline dolphins is to try to force their prey into a corner, against a wall or into a shallow riverbank near a river bed or the coast line where the water is too shallow to swim effectively in order to prevent their food from making an easy escape.

While all dolphins have teeth not all species use their teeth to their full advantage.

Some species use their teeth to tear apart their prey while others use their teeth only to grab onto their prey and will swallow their food whole.

In regards to the baleen whale suborder this suborder is composed completely of large whales.

In comparison to toothed whales the baleen whale suborder possess baleen plates with bristles (instead of teeth) and two blowholes.

The use of echolocation among these marine mammals is not well known.

Since baleen whales do not possess teeth they hunt for food using a different strategy known as filter feeding which involves swimming towards large groups of fish (or other prey) and sucking up as much food as possible.

The baleen bristles are used to capture and filter their prey from the water while allowing the water to easily pass in an out of the bristles.

Once enough food has been captured the whale uses its large tongue to push out the water and then swallows their prey whole.