My teen and I recently visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and, as always, the Pacific white-sided dolphins both wowed and charmed us. They’re some of our favorite animals there. March is Dolphin Awareness Month, which is all about celebrating these smart, playful, and acrobatic mammals.
In honor of the occasion, here are 15 fun facts about dolphins that the good folks at the Shedd have learned from providing them world-class care!
1. There are more than 30 different species of dolphins and Shedd Aquarium is home to Pacific white-sided dolphins, a rarely studied open-water species.
2. Clocked at up to 25 miles per hour, Pacific white-sided dolphins are one of the fastest swimmers in the ocean.
3. Pacific white-sided dolphins can leap to towering heights of 15 to 20 feet, turn somersaults in the air, or belly flop with a dramatic splash. Jumping can help them see above the water or communicate with fellow dolphins.
4. Although dolphins lack vocal chords, they create underwater vocalizations sounding like clicks or creaking doors. Volume and frequency can vary when dolphins are producing vocalizations, even at considerable depths.
5. Staying true to their name, Pacific white-sided dolphins inhabit the cool temperature waters of the north Pacific, ranging from the South China Sea and the Baja California Peninsula to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea.
6. Pacific white-sided dolphins grow up to be 6 to 7 feet long as adults, and weigh between 220 to 300 pounds or upwards of 400 pounds for large males.
7. Pacific white-sided dolphins are distinguished by their black backs, gray sides, white bellies and asuspender-like stripe runs down each side.
8. At Shedd Aquarium, dolphins receive optimal nutrition including a diet of fresh, sustainable restaurant-quality seafood including herring, capelin and squid. Adult dolphins eat about 25 to 30 pounds of food each day.
9. Shedd Aquarium’s success with Pacific white-sided dolphin births is providing invaluable information on optimal husbandry and maternal care that is being applied worldwide. There are seven critical development milestones calves must reach in their first 12 months including birth, taking their first breath, bonding with mom, nursing, growing, discovering fish and weaning.
10. Dolphin milk has fat content close to half-and-half: between 10 and 20 percent.
11. The names of Shedd’s Pacific white-sided dolphins are in the Tlingit language, the endangered language of the Native American tribe of the Pacific Northwest. Names include Katrl, Kukdlaa, and Piquet.
12. Pacific white-sided dolphins are nicknamed “Lags” after their unwieldy scientific name, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens.
13. Eastern Pacific dolphin populations appear to follow a migratory pattern, being the most abundant in the Southern California Bight during the winter and spending summers further north.
14. Dolphins do not have a gag-reflex, which allows them to swallow their food whole. This lets them to catch food and eat it quickly when they find it.
15. When describing what it feels like to touch our Pacific white-sided dolphins, one trainer at Shedd noted they feel firm, smooth and a little colder than some expect. Some comparisons include a wet inner tube or a peeled hard-boiled egg.
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All facts and photos courtesy of the Shedd Aquarium.
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