Dolphins are known for their joy, compassion and intelligence. They are mammals that live in the water and are most closely related to porpoises and whales. Dolphins come in all different sizes. They range from 4 feet and 88 pounds (Maui’s dolphins) to 10 tons (the Orca). But, an average length for a dolphin that lives in North America would be about 13.89 feet. Most types of dolphins range from 110-440 pounds. Almost 40 species of dolphins are in existence today. Some dolphins have curved mouths that look like they are smiling. Some species have up to 250 teeth. Their brains are highly structured and thus they are known for their intelligence.
Dolphins can be found all over the world, but they are mostly located in areas of the ocean that are more shallow near the continental shelves. Their diet consists mainly of squid and fish, thus they are carnivores. How long have dolphins been around? They evolved about 10 million years ago during the Miocene epoch. This period of time existed from about 23 to 5.3 million years ago.
Dolphins are made to swim fast. They have what is called a “spindle-like” body that “tapers” at both ends. Located in their head is the “melon”. This is a round, oily, fatty lump made up of tissue in the middle of their forehead. The “melon” is used for echolocation. Echolocation is the emitting of sound waves while listening to the echo of the waves. This process allows the dolphin to navigate or locate objects.
My favorite dolphins, the Pacific Bottle-nose, are most known for their habits near shore, their performances at aquariums and their playfulness near boats. They can be anywhere from 7 to 11 feet in length and between 600-850 pounds. Their bellies are white or pink. Their backs are a medium grey color with the grey becoming lighter on the sides of their bodies. It is believed that there are a few thousand Bottle-nose dolphins living in the waters surrounding Hawaii.
Rough-toothed dolphins are named so due to the “wrinkled” surface of their teeth. These dolphins are dark gray to purplish black. They have pink and white streaks and spots all over their bodies. Because of this coloring, they have also been called “polka dot” or “calico” dolphins. Even though their body size and proportion is very similar to the bottle nose dolphins, their snouts are longer and more pointed. These dolphins are found in deep waters of about 6,000 feet or more. That is why they are mostly seen by deep-sea fisherman or boaters.
Smaller than Rough-toothed or Bottle-nose, are Spotted dolphins. They are only 6-7 feet long. They are about 240 pounds in weight. Their backs are dark grey, becoming lighter grey underneath. They have a dark “cape” that can be found going from their forehead to their dorsal fin. Spots may be found on them. They have slender, white-tipped snouts. These dolphins are very social and usually travel in large herds.
The Spinner dolphin is another dolphin. They are about 5-6 feet in length and 130-200 pounds in weight. They have a “three-tone” color pattern which consists of a gray “cape” on their backs, with a lighter grey stripe on their sides and a pink or white belly. These dolphins are named Spinners because they like to leap high in the air and spin a couple of times on their tails before they fall back into the water. They are commonly seen in Kealaki’akua Bay in Hawaii.
Dolphins are very social creatures. They live in pods that contain anywhere from a dozen individuals, to groupings of over a 1,000. They communicate to each other by using various clicks, whistles and other vocal types of sounds.
Dolphins will stay with another dolphin, or other creature, that has become ill or injured. They will even assist them in breathing by getting them to the water’s surface if needed. Dolphins have also been seen protecting swimmers from sharks by either swimming circles around the swimmer or charging after the shark to make it leave.
A very important part of the dolphin culture is play. They love to ride waves, interact with swimmers and leap up in between the bow waves of moving sailboats.
As far back as Greek mythology, dolphins have played a part in human culture. Ancient Greece put dolphins on coins. The coins featured a deity, boy or man, riding the dolphin. In ancient Greece, if a dolphin was seen riding the wake of a ship, that was considered good luck. In Hindu mythology, dolphins were associated with their deity of the Ganges river.
More recently, in 1993 was the movie Free Willy, about an Orca named Willy. The 1990’s also gave way to a science fiction television series called seaQuest DSV. This show featured a Bottle-nose dolphin called Darwin. In 1973 a movie where dolphins were depicted carrying out a naval military assassination was called “The Day of the Dolphin”. One of my favorite books as a child was, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”.
I think we can take a que from the dolphins. They are joyful and compassionate creatures who care for the injured and sick. They know how to have fun and be playful. How carefree their lives appear to be.
Life is often too serious. It is full of deadlines, disappointments and struggles. But how we deal with the obstacles life presents is many times the key to our success in “riding the waves” out.
We can chose to crash and burn, or we can chose to grab the joy that comes our way and relish in it. The waves of life may be troubled and rough, or restful and smooth. Either way, we have to learn the freedom that play can give us…a day at the pool with our grandchild, an evening walk with our dog at sunset or a volleyball game at a summer family gathering. Let’s learn to plan and experience more moments of freefall-like the Spinner dolphin leaping into the air and spinning in joy as it falls back into the water below it.