Dolphins are known to consume a number of different fish and marine mammals depending on the dolphin’s species, where it lives and the available food sources in the dolphin’s area.
Most species of dolphin will hunt for and consume fish such as cod, herring and mackerel.
They’ll also hunt a variety of small and large squid, sea turtles, plankton, krill, cephalopods and a variety of other crustaceans.
While only a few species of dolphin are known to hunt marine mammals and birds larger dolphins such as the killer whale and false killer whale may hunt marine mammals during times when smaller prey such as fish and crustaceans my not be sufficient for their dieting needs.
The types of marine mammals these dolphins hunt may include sea lions, walruses, seals, sharks, penguins, seabirds and large whales.
Because of the strong social structure dolphins have many species hunt for food in groups or pods and work collaboratively to capture their prey.
One technique dolphins use to hunt for food is called a bait ball.
The bait ball technique is used to capture schools of fish and requires a pod of dolphins to swim around in a circle which forces the fish to herd themselves into a tightly knit ball, which causes them to become easy prey and an abundant source of food for the dolphins by preventing the fish from being able to escape in any direction.
Once the fish are pinned down into a tight ball the dolphins can rush in and pick the fish off one at a time.
Another technique (known as corralling) is commonly used by dolphins in or near shallow waters.
This works by chasing the fish into shallow waters or getting them into a small narrow place where they can be pinned against a wall or mud bank so they are unable to escape.
Similar to a bait ball the school of fish will be limited in mobility and most will be unable to escape while the dolphins move in and attack them.
Some dolphins may also use their tail to hit and stun the fish in order to paralyze them long enough to be defenseless while the dolphins attack them.
While it is difficult to determine exactly how much food a dolphin consumes it is safe to say that depending on the dolphins species most dolphins can consume anywhere between 3% – 10% of their total body weight in food per day.
In addition to communicating with one another when hunting for food in groups dolphins are also able to hunt for food using echolocation which allows them to create sound waves and detect fish and other objects in the area by interpreting the information that is returned to them through the echo’s they emit.