They have close-knit circles, love a chinwag - through clicks and whistles - and are exceptionally smart. Alien yet familiar, dolphins aren't too different from us. Found across the world, these ocean superstars have captivated the hearts of people for as long as we can remember, and for good reason. Whether coming face-to-face with a dolphin on a dive or seeing a pod ride an ocean wave just for fun, diving with dolphins should be on everyone's bucket list. If you too love dolphins, read on to discover ten facts about dolphins, the true acrobats of the ocean.
There Are 42 Species of Dolphins
Picture a dolphin and chances are it will be a common bottlenose dolphin. While undoubtedly the sociable stars of the sea, there are 42 species of dolphin vying for attention.
Rather than whittling off all 42, we'll cast a spotlight on a couple of our favourites. Commonly mistaken for whales, orcas - also known as killer whales - are the largest member of the dolphin family, growing up to 9.4 metres long. On the flip side, Hector's dolphin holds the title for world's smallest dolphin, reaching a maximum length of 1.45 metres.
Dolphins Have Teeth
There's nothing quite like seeing a dolphin's toothy grin to warm the cockles of the heart. However, different species have different gnashers. Take bottlenose dolphins, for example; they have long rows of pointy conical teeth to grip slippery fish. On the other hand, orcas have impressive three-inch interlocking teeth designed for tearing up their prey.
Not All Dolphins Live in the Sea
Some dolphins are partial to freshwater. Specifically, four species of dolphin can be found swimming in rivers across Asia and South America. Unlike their sea-dwelling counterparts, river dolphins have long slender snouts, tiny teeth, pronounced foreheads, large flippers and small dorsal fins.The Amazon river dolphin takes this one step further, turning from grey to pink with age and turning even brighter pink when excited!
Dolphins Can Live Up to 90 years
Dolphins can lead remarkably long lives, although lifespan varies across species. In the wild, dolphins will generally reach 15-16 years. However, the oldest bottlenose dolphin ever recorded in the wild reached a ripe old age of 48, the equivalent of 100 human years.
Orcas can live much longer, with an average lifespan of roughly 30 years for males and 50 for females. The oldest living orca in the wild was estimated to be 105 years old and given the affectionate nickname 'Granny.'
Dolphins are Super Social
An ode to their remarkable intelligence, dolphins have personalities and often have close and long-lasting friendships. Most species live in pods of two to 40, but in areas where food is readily available, pods can merge into super pods of up to 1,000. What's more, they even have a love language: physical touch. Dolphins have been documented resting their fins on one another, petting and even hitting each other.
Insider tip: visit the Azores archipelago between May and September for the chance to spot super pods of Atlantic spotted dolphins.
Dolphins Have More Than One Stomach
While dolphins' gnashers are great for catching prey, they have a hard time chewing. Luckily, dolphins have a special adaption to avoid indigestion. Like cows, dolphins have two stomachs that are split into three chambers. One stores food while the other - split into two chambers - is for digestion. Handy, considering how much nosh they eat (bonus dolphin fact: up to 30lbs a day).
Dolphins are Extremely Intelligent
Second only to humans, dolphins are a bunch of clever clogs. Their cognitive prowess spans social structures, echolocation (the ability to sense their surroundings using sound), problem-solving and sophisticated communication methods; this is likely due to a mass of spindle neurons in their noggins. In Laguna, Brazil, a pod of common bottlenose dolphins has even formed an allegiance with local fishermen to catch fish, drawing schools of mullet to fishermen's nets at shore.
Dolphins Have Names
Listen to the whistle of a dolphin and you might learn its name. Aside from humans, dolphins are the first animals that we know of to give each other names. A dolphin's name is a signature whistle used by their close friends, pod members or family when they want to reunite with that specific individual.
Dolphins Can Turn Off Half of Their Brain
Like us, dolphins need to sleep. Unlike us, falling into a deep sleep could be life-threatening. This is because they still need to breathe, which is a tough feat underwater. To combat this, dolphins alternate which side of their brain is 'switched off' so they don't fully lose consciousness but can still have a good kip.
Dolphins Have Super Healing Powers
More a superhero fact than a dolphin fact: Dolphins have super healing powers. Dolphins can recover from serious trauma - like a shark bite - incredibly quickly. Like amphibians regrowing limbs, dolphins can even regenerate their blubber, which is vital to their protection. What's more, dolphins can also constrict blood vessels to avoid bleeding to death.