Dolphins are great animals. Those that live in captivity perform great stunts, while those in the wild swim together and enjoy coming to human tour boats, eager for a pet or two. However, what do you call a group of dolphins?
A group of dolphins is commonly called a pod. Dolphins are social animals that live, hunt, and feed together. A pod may have between 2 to 50 dolphins. Several pods of dolphins may form a super pod, which may have up to thousands of dolphins. Pods may form and break fluidly, and dolphins commonly join and leave pods.
What Are Dolphins?
Dolphins are a species of aquatic mammals. They have streamlined bodies and use two front limbs as flappers. Dolphins are widespread worldwide and live a social life, often in groups of up to 30 dolphins. About 6 dolphin subspecies are considered endangered, and dolphins are hunted by humans for meat or captivity.
Dolphins are a type of mammal that lives in the water. Depending on its families, you have dolphins that live in the sea, river, or brackish water. There are over 40 extant species of dolphins worldwide.
Dolphins are widespread around the world. Most species enjoy the warm waters of tropical regions. Still, some prefer colder waters, such as the right whale dolphin.
Dolphins vary widely in size. Smaller dolphins may range from 5 feet 7 inches (170cm), while the largest dolphins, such as the orcas, maybe 31 ft. 2 inches (9.5M). These animals have streamlined bodies with two limbs functioning as flippers. Dolphins may not be as flexible as seals, but they can swim fast, up to 18 miles per hour (29 KMH.)
Dolphins enjoy a diet of fish and squid, with larger dolphins, such as the orca, feeding on larger mammals, such as seals. When feeding, dolphins swim fast toward their prey and then use their conical teeth to capture fast-moving prey. Dolphins also have very sensitive ears, which may help them during hunting.
Male dolphins generally mate with multiple females every year. Still, females tend to be more reserved, mating only every two to three years. Mothers give birth to the young and are responsible for raising the offspring. Depending on the species, dolphins may be pregnant from 10 – 15 months. Calves are usually born in the spring and summer months.
Dolphins are not considered endangered, but their numbers are dwindling, with 6 subspecies listed as endangered. Dolphins may be hunted down by humans for their meat or for captivity. Many dolphins also end up as bycatch and suffer from habitat loss and marine pollution.
There are many dolphins that are kept in captivity and trained to perform tricks and interact with humans. Over 2,000 dolphins live in captivity worldwide, with about 60 of them orcas, the largest dolphins.
How Many Subspecies Of Dolphins Are There?
There are over 50 subspecies of dolphins. The subspecies may be related to its shape, habitat, location, size, or dietary behavior. However, certain subspecies are more numerous than others, meaning you may be more likely to see them. Some subspecies are more endangered than others.
Dolphins could be broken down into over 50 subspecies. These subspecies may be created based on how they are different from the other dolphin subspecies. These differences may include things such as size, habitat, location, shape, or dietary behavior.
Some dolphin species are more numerous than others, so you are more likely to see these subspecies; others are also more distinct and may be featured more in books, movies, and media.
Some of the more popular dolphins include:
When thinking about dolphins, most will picture this subspecies. In fact, Flipper from the 1964 TV series is a bottlenose dolphin. It has dark gray skin, a bottle-shaped nose, and a thick snout. You may find the subspecies swimming about in tropical and temperate water in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. Some may also swim in the Mediterranean Sea.
Ganges River Dolphins
Named over the Ganges river, you may find them all over the Indian subcontinent. Being a river-dwelling dolphin, it has a special style of swimming. It can swim on its side, which helps it to run its flipper on the river’s bottom. This swimming style helps it to find food.
Risso’s dolphins have rounded, white, smooth heads, which resulted in Taiwanese fishermen calling it the monk dolphin. It feeds primarily on squid and enjoys living in warm, deep-water seas.
Short-Finned Pilot Dolphins
The Short-Finned Pilot Whale is known for its unique head. It has a bulbous forehead and does not have a break or a snout. It is also a highly social subspecies, traveling around in a larger group of up to 50 dolphins. Short-finned pilot dolphins are also very rarely seen alone.
Striped dolphins can be found in many tropical and temperate waters globally. They may also be easily noticeable due to their habit of performing active acrobatics when leaping out of the water. Striped dolphins are also very social, traveling in large groups, sometimes up to the thousands.
Amazon River Dolphins
A river water subspecies, they are also known as the Boto or Bufeo dolphin. They have a unique feature not seen in other subspecies of dolphins in that as they mature, their skin changes from gray to pink. You may see them around the Amazon river basin, which also gives this subspecies its name.
Hourglass dolphins may sometimes be mistaken for mini killer whales due to their small size and black-and-white coloring. They were first sighted in 1824, close to the Antarctic coasts, so they preferred the colder waters. They may be less sighted since they do not live in areas with a high human population.
Spinner dolphins are called such due to their swimming moves. Other dolphins perform a longitudinal leap when coming up to the surface to breathe. Still, spinner dolphins perform spins on top of that. You may find spinner dolphins around tropical water all over the world.
Killer Whales (Orcas)
Killer whales are considered a subspecies of dolphins, despite being called a whale. It is the largest dolphin subspecies, and Orcas are known to be probably the most social dolphins. They are most remembered for their group hunting methods and unique vocal sounds.
You may like this article: What Is A Group Of Whales Called?
How Do Dolphins Live?
Dolphins are known to live a social life in groups. The group approach extends to things such as feeding, hunting, mating, playing, and communication. Dolphins also sleep uniquely and may jump to conserve energy when traveling long distances.
Feeding And Hunting
Dolphins regularly feed on other fishes and squid. At the same time, larger dolphins, such as orcas, are known to feed on other sea mammals, such as seals or larger whales. Dolphins may have between 40 to over 116 conical teeth depending on size and subspecies.
Dolphins also hunt in groups, commonly employing a feeding method called Herding. In this hunting method, dolphins swim in circles, compressing a school of fish into a small, compact mass known as a bait ball.
Each dolphin then takes turns swimming into the ball and tries to bite and feed on the fish. Since the fish are swimming in a tight mass, the likelihood of being able to catch a fish and eat it is high.
Another method is called corralling, where dolphins chase fish into shallow waters to make catching them easier. Some subspecies of dolphins, such as orcas or bottlenose dolphins, are known to corral fish to the beach to strand them before feeding on them.
There are also some unique feeding methods, such as shaking a huge conch shell to force fish swimming inside to fall into the dolphin’s mouth.
Dolphins are known to be social animals, which means they make a wide range of sounds to communicate with each other. Sounds are usually made using nasal air sacs just below the blowhole.
Dolphins generally make categories of sounds, whistles, burst pulses, and clicks. Scientists have observed dolphins making more frequent click sounds when approaching an object of interest.
Bottlenose dolphins are known to make whistles and may use them to communicate and identify an individual dolphin. This means whistles may be like a name for a human. As a result, dolphins do display a strong memory to be able to recall whistles.
Dolphins do sleep, similar to much other aquatic life. Dolphins generally sleep with only one side of their brain in slow-wave sleep at a time. This allows it to maintain enough consciousness to breathe and watch for possible predators. The tail may slowly kick when sleeping to keep the blowhole above water.
However, in captivity, dolphins are observed to be capable of sleeping in full, with no response to mild stimuli, perhaps due to a lack of threats.
The Indus river dolphin, however, displays a different sleep pattern. It swims continuously and sleeps in short bursts, which may last between 4 to 60 seconds. This allows it to swim and avoid being washed away by strong river currents.
Jumping And Playing
Dolphins may frequently leap over the water’s surface while swimming. Common reasons include saving energy since it takes less effort to travel in the air than in water. Other reasons may be to display skill, fight, entertain, or dislodge parasites.
Dolphins are also playful creatures that indulge themselves in individual or group play. Individually, dolphins may make bubble rings or try to carry an object using parts of their body. When engaging in group play, dolphins may try to pass these objects to each other or throw them out from the water.
Dolphins are also observed to engage in play with non-dolphin animals, such as dogs and humpback whales. Dolphins are also known to play with humans, swimming up to humans to be petted or fed.
Common in many social animals, male dolphins also engage and arrange themselves in the dominant hierarchy. This may be done over fights, in which male dolphins may bite each other. As a result, old male dolphins tend to collect bite scars over time.
Dominance fights may also happen due to things such as fighting for female dolphins or companions. Fights can be so intense that the losing dolphin may be forced to leave the pod or go into exile.
Male dolphins are also known to engage in infanticide, although the exact reason is not known. Resources are often ruled out since calves generally consume milk from their mother, which means they do not consume the same resources as other adult dolphins.
Scientists believe infanticide behavior may point to misdirected sexual aggression or play behavior.
What Is A Group Of Dolphins Called?
A dolphin group is called a pod. Dolphins generally have around 2-50 dolphins per pod, although the numbers may be larger, depending on subspecies. Some pods can combine and form a super pod, which may number up to thousands of dolphins.
Dolphins are naturally social animals. Therefore it comes as no surprise that they live in groups called pods. The term pods may also be used for other aquatic mammals, such as seals or whales.
Pods may come in several types and may be formed as a general unit or for specific reasons. There is no set format for a pod, with some pods containing only younger male dolphins and some containing only mothers and calves. There are pods formed with only male dolphins and some with only mother dolphins.
However, in most cases, a common pod of dolphins will contain adult males, females, and calves. In many cases, it is normal for dolphins to form, join and leave pods as they wish. Their decision may depend on their needs or the situation around them.
For example, a female dolphin who recently gave birth may join several other similar dolphins and form a nursing pod together, only to rejoin their old pod when the calves have grown up.
In certain periods, several pods may join together and form a super pod, which may number from hundreds to even thousands of dolphins. Super pods are usually formed temporarily, for feeding, protection, or mating. If dolphins are going to travel long distances for seasonal moves, they may also form super pods to travel together.
Super pods may break into the original smaller pods once the purpose for their formation is completed. This may range from reaching the traveling destination, fewer threats from other animals, all dolphins mating, and more.
Why Do Dolphins Form Pods?
Dolphins may form pods for many reasons. Pods fulfill dolphins’ desire to be sociable, as well as allow them to engage in feeding and hunting better. Dolphins also form pods to travel, mate, raise calves, or protect each other from threats.
Dolphins form pods for many reasons, from simply being a basic social unit to forming a pod for specific purposes. Pods may also combine, forming super pods for more specific purposes as well.
Pods often function as the family unit within the dolphin world. General dolphin pods may contain adult male and female dolphins and calves. This allows the dolphins to socialize and engage in activities such as playing, hunting, and mating together.
Dolphins are known to engage in group hunting, employing tactics such as circling a school of fish into a tight, compact ball before engaging in feeding. Dolphins also try to push fish to shallow waters together to make it easier to catch them.
This means dolphins need to be part of a group or pod to hunt and feed in groups. This likely explains why they are rarely solitary animals. Feeding super pods may also form in areas with abundant food and resources. The super pod may also engage in mating and other activities.
Dolphins are not specifically migratory animals, but they are known to engage in seasonal traveling, where they travel long distances to reach better-feeding shores and so on.
However, traveling long distances may come with its own problems, such as safety. As such, dolphins usually travel in their pods and even may join several pods together into a super pod for long-distance traveling.
Dolphins do not have a mating season, although male dolphins usually mate several times a year, while female dolphins mate once every few years. This means that in a small pod, there may be no female dolphins for male dolphins to mate with.
As a result, there may be times when several dolphin pods may form super pods to mate. This allows all dolphins looking for a mate to get one.
As much as dolphins are good swimmers, they are still vulnerable to predators. Sharks are known to feed on dolphins, with whales enjoying hunting down dolphins. As a result, dolphins may form pods to protect each other since there is strength in numbers.
When facing a threat, a pod of dolphins may either use communication to tire the threat or group up and intimidate the predator.
If the threat is particularly serious, such as when the sea area is full of sharks, pods of dolphins may even form super pods to better protect each other. These super pods may break up once the threat has subsided.
Some pods may be formed specifically to raise calves. These pods are commonly called nursery pods. A nursery pod may contain several female dolphins with calves that may form a pod together. In a nursery pod, adult female dolphins may share resources to help raise their calves, such as food.
Regular pods may also have calves, allowing the calves to grow up in a social environment and be protected from larger predators
Becoming Adult Dolphins
When some dolphins become adults, several may leave their present pod and form a new one. These are often called juvenile pods. These juvenile pods eventually may mate with each other, producing a new generation of dolphins.
Interestingly, when the female dolphin gives birth, she may bring her calf and join a nursery pod. Once the calf has grown up, she may rejoin the juvenile pod later, indicating the fluid pod formation of dolphins.
Do Dolphins Live With Their Pods Their Whole Life?
Generally, dolphins do not stay in the same pod their whole life. They may form, join and leave pods depending on their needs and the situation surrounding them. There are dolphins who form a very strong bond that their pods never break, sometimes over the whole duration of their life.
Dolphins generally belong to a pod, although the pod they belong to may be fluid. Dolphins may form, join or leave pods as they see fit, depending on their situation and conditions. Scientists describe dolphin pod formation as following a ‘fission-fusion’ structure.
For example, when several young adult males and female dolphins from several pods meet each other, they may form a new juvenile pod and mate with each other.
When the female dolphins give birth, she may bring her calf back to her old pod. She may join several other female dolphins who also gave birth recently to form a nursery pod. As the calves grow up, she may then bring the young dolphin back to her juvenile pod.
At times, the sea condition becomes dangerous, perhaps because a pod of migratory sharks recently appeared in the area. In this situation, all the dolphins may form a super pod to protect themselves from the sharks.
If the situation becomes untenable and they may need to move away, the whole super pod may travel together as well. When they reach the safety of a new place, they then break into their own pods again.
In some situations, dolphins may become separated from the pod and unable to join a new pod for various reasons. As a result, these dolphins may live a solitary life, until they are able to join a new pod.
Can Dolphins Live Alone?
Dolphins may be able to live alone, although they generally prefer to be in a pod. Solitary dolphins may have been forced into becoming one, usually through unplanned separation. Solitary dolphins may seek social interactions with humans. They may also be exposed to danger, such as becoming prey to a pod of sharks.
Dolphins are generally social animals that live in a pod. They may form, join or leave pods many times in their lives, but at any one time, they tend to belong to a pod.
However, at times you may notice solitary dolphins, who often did not choose to be one.
There are many ways dolphins could end up being solitary without intending to. For example, if the dolphin leaves a pod and is unable to find a new pod to join. Situations like this may happen if the dolphin is not in the vicinity of a different pod, which means there are simply no new pods to join.
A dolphin may also end up being solitary when it belongs to a small pod of two or three dolphins, and the pod mates die. Some dolphins may also become solitary when the mother dies prematurely, leaving the juvenile dolphin unable to develop social skills to live in a pod.
Solitary dolphins tend to be male, as they are likelier to leave their present pod. Young male dolphins may end up alone due to losing fights with other dolphins in the pod or simply leaving the pod to try to start a new one.
Solitary dolphins face many disadvantages. They may not be able to benefit from group hunting, which means feeding may be harder. Instead of relying on group hunting, they are reduced to foraging for food.
They are also more exposed to danger, such as being surrounded and becoming prey to a pod of sharks or whales. These predator animals enjoy picking on solitary dolphins, as they are easier to hunt down and kill.
Solitary dolphins are also known to seek companionship by seeking interactions with humans. It is common to see solitary dolphins play and swim around places where human boats may be. They may be hurt by the boats’ propellers.
These dolphins may also swim close to the beach, increasing their risk of being stranded. Aside from being dangerous to themselves, solitary dolphins may also hurt humans by knocking on their surfboards.
Due to their lack of experience interacting with dolphins, many humans may resort to feeding them food that does not suit its body. As a result, these solitary dolphins may become ill.
Constant feeding by humans also causes these solitary dolphins to slowly lose hunting and foraging skills, making them less likely to survive in the wild again.