Dolphins are marine mammals known as cetaceans and are related to whales and porpoises.
They range in size from the 4 foot Maui’s dolphin to the 30 foot orca or killer whale.
They band together in social groups called pods, and hunt for food such as squid or schools of smaller fish.
Like bats, dolphins use a sonar-type form of communication called echolocation to find their prey.
They are known to follow fishing boats to feed on discarded fish, and jump vertically out of the water to survey their surroundings.
They are highly intelligent animals and popular at marine exhibits and parks for their entertaining agility and crowd interaction.
Where Do Dolphins Live?
Dolphins inhabit a wide range of the world’s oceans.
Most dolphins live in the shallow waters of the ocean’s continental shelves, both in tropical and more temperate waters.
There are also lesser-known species of dolphins that live in rivers of the world located in China, South America, India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia.
Some of the larger species of dolphin such as the killer whale may be found living further out (away from the coastline) in deep ocean waters.
Where are various species found throughout the world?
With over 40 species throughout the world, dolphin populations and species are found in many locations.
The largest of the dolphin species is the Orca or killer whale, which is mostly located in the cold polar waters.
Because of their massive size, they prefer deeper water, but can sometimes swim into bays of shallow water.
One of the dolphin species common to Ireland and Great Britain is the Bottlenose dolphin, which is also found worldwide in offshore and inland waterways.
Striped dolphins are found in warmer tropical waters of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and usually remain in deeper offshore waters.
The smaller Atlantic Spotted Dolphin is found mostly off the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, and off the Atlantic coast of the United States.
The rare and critically endangered Hector’s Dolphin is the only dolphin species native to New Zealand.
The Pantropical Spotted Dolphin inhabits the warm tropical waters of the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Humpback Dolphin ranges from the west coast of to northern Australia to southern China.
Short-beaked Common Dolphins are located in the coastal and offshore waters of the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The most common river dolphin is the Amazon River Dolphin or pink river dolphin common to the Amazon River basin.
Other river dolphins include the endangered Finless Porpoise, native to Southeast Asia, and the Tucuxi, which is found on the eastern coastlines of South and Central America, and thrives in both fresh and salt water.
The Irrawaddy Dolphin is native to the warm and shallow offshore waters of Southern Asia, and can also be found in freshwater rivers far from the coast.
Why do some dolphins live in cold climates while others live in tropical climates?
Certain species of dolphins have shown a tendency to live in warmer or more temperate climates.
Dolphins that prefer to live in coastal waters feed on the plankton that is abundant in the shallow offshore coastal waters instead of the colder and deeper waters.
Some dolphin species like the orca or killer whale have evolved to thrive in colder regions by developing a thicker layer of blubber or insulating fat to stay warm in cold ocean waters.
River dolphins such as the Ganges river dolphin have narrow beaks that allow them to locate food in shallow river waters, mud banks and small crevices.
Different dolphin species have adapted to thrive in both tropical and cold regions all over the world.