Dolphins are some of the best-known sea creatures in the world. These aquatic mammals belong to the Cetacea infraorder.
There are 40 species of dolphins found in the world. The smallest dolphin specie is the 1.7meter long Maui’s dolphin that usually weighs around 50kg. The largest dolphin species is the 9.5meter long killer whale that usually weighs around 10 tons.
Due to their huge size, these animals are not your usual pets. You will only find them in the sea or in large aquariums.
All 40 species of dolphins are carnivores and they do rely on lots of fat and protein found in meat foods for survival.
Not all species of dolphins do prefer the same foods. Some species tend to focus more on some food types than others. But all dolphin species do use herding techniques to catch their prey.
Here is a quick look at the most common foods that most dolphin species enjoy eating;
This is the most common food source for dolphins. Most dolphin species eat fish and they are happy to consume just about any type of fish species. Smaller dolphin species do focus on smaller fish species.
Some dolphin species, like bottlenose dolphins, do not chew their foods. Therefore they focus on fish that are small enough to swallow whole.
Larger dolphin species will consume much larger fish species. Orca’s, for example, may even choose to catch and eat smaller dolphin species.
Squid is a loved food for many dolphin species. These aquatic animals do not offer much fat because squids generally do not have much fat in their bodies. If dolphins want to survive on squid meat, they need to consume much more food compared to other food sources such as meat.
Most dolphin species do not survive on squid alone. They also catch fish to get the energy they need to stay active.
Like squid, the octopus does not offer much fat. This is, however, a very common food source for smaller dolphin species. Octopuses are quite challenging to catch because these animals are so clever and most octopuses are naturally camouflaged. But these eight-legged creatures are quite vulnerable to dolphins because they have so many razor-sharp teeth.
Larger dolphin species can catch and eat fairly large sea turtles. But in most cases, dolphins focus on smaller sea turtles like hatchlings because their shells are softer. Fully grown sea turtles are not too vulnerable to dolphins because their hard shells offer them plenty of protection.
Smaller dolphin species love to catch plankton. These organisms are usually found in large bodies of water. Plankton often lives in large groups which makes it easy for dolphins to sweep up these tiny organisms.
Small to large dolphins are known to eat crustaceans. There are over 67 thousand species of crustaceans and these include crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, and many others. Crustaceans are a very important food source for a huge variety of fish species.
Larger dolphin species like killer whales may hunt marine mammals. The most common marine mammals that these larger dolphins enjoy eating include sea lions, walruses, seals, sharks, penguins, seabirds, whales, and others.
Dolphins do not have too many diet variations because they cannot consume plant matter. Some dolphin species like an orca that usually focus on larger prey may choose to eat smaller foods such as crustaceans or small fish if they are very hungry.
Smaller dolphin species like the bottlenose dolphin may also hunt in a herd to catch larger mammals such as seals. But all in all, dolphins will only consume meat foods.
It is very important to never offer food to dolphins in aquariums unless you are accompanied by an instructor. These animals are closely monitored and they are offered a balanced diet.
In the wild, hungry dolphins can be offered food by adding fish, squid, and crustaceans to the water. Wild dolphins are quite brave but are not too likely to come up to you in person to collect food sources.
The amount of food a dolphin eats depends on its specie and size. A dolphin that weights 200 – 250kg usually consumes 10 – 25kg fish per day.
In aquariums, dolphins are carefully monitored and they are offered the correct foods based on their species and weight.
Baby dolphins are called calves. Dolphins are mammals and rely on their mother’s milk for survival. Dolphin calves can continue to nurse from their mothers for many years.
They will, however, start to eat small portions of fish when they are a few months old.
As dolphin calves grow, they will increase their meat consumption until they can successfully wean.
Dolphins enjoy eating a huge variety of fish species. They typically focus on non-poisonous fish species and some dolphin species do prefer certain types of fish over others.
Dolphins can catch prey alone but they often use a herding technique to catch fish. They usually travel in groups or pods and work together to catch prey. These mammals have quite a few techniques to catch fish.
Bait balling is one of their favorite techniques. In this method, the pod of dolphins will swim around a school of fish and force these to herd tightly together. When these fish are huddled closely together they become much easier to pick off.
Larger dolphins like the killer whale and others are known to hunt all sorts of animals including marine birds. Some dolphin species do not eat birds but instead, collaborate with certain marine birds to hunt and catch fish.
Dolphins usually avoid foods that are too large to swallow whole. Only larger dolphin species such as orcas will catch and eat penguins.
Dolphins are incredibly interesting animals but they require lots of healthy foods to stay healthy and to maintain high energy levels so they can continue to swim night and day.