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Six Reasons Dolphins Are Unique Amongst Other Mammals

Dolphins are well known for their intelligence. Apart from humans these animals are arguably the most intelligent animal in the world. So what features make dolphins so unique?

1. Communication

Dolphins have a complex communication system that includes a variety of vocalizations, body language, and echolocation. They are able to communicate with each other in intricate ways, and some species even have their own dialects.

Every dolphin has its own high-pitched whistle that is unique to them. This can be really useful for individuals to identify each other. This is particularly useful when a mother dolphin is separated from her calf, she will call out with her signature whistle, and the calf will respond with its own signature whistle.

2. Echolocation

Dolphins use echolocation to navigate, find food, and communicate. They emit high-pitched clicks and use the echoes to determine the location and characteristics of objects in their environment. Other animals that use echolocation include whales, bats, oilbirds, and shrews, to name a few!

3. Dolphins are actually whales

Yes, you read that correctly. Dolphins are actually whales. Both mammals belong to the Cetacea family. Whilst all dolphins or whales, not all whales are dolphins. Cetacea is split into two different classifications. Toothed whales and baleen whales. Baleen whales include big whales like blue whales and humpback whales.

4. Killer Whales are dolphins

Six Reasons Dolphins Are Unique Amongst Other Mammals
Orca jumping out of the water.

Despite their name, and perhaps being the most famous whale, killer whales, or orcas, are in fact the largest member of the dolphin family. Orcas are the most widely distributed of all whales and dolphins, found in every single ocean in the world.

5. Highly sociable

Dolphins are highly social animals, forming tight-knit pods of up to several dozen individuals. They engage in complex social behaviors, including cooperative hunting, play, and mutual grooming. Dolphins have even been known to assist humans by driving fish towards fishermen, in return for a reward.

6. Some dolphins use tools

Dolphin with a sea sponge on its nose. The sponge is yellow and brown.
IImage credit: Dolphin Innovation Project, Shark Bay, Australia.

Okay, so there aren’t too many tools in the ocean for dolphins to make use of. However, in Shark Bay, Australia, some bottlenose dolphins use basket sponges as tools. They tear off the basket sponges from the seafloor, and wear them on their noses. This helps them to forage for fish that are hiding on the seafloor, and also helps to protect their beaks whilst foraging.

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