Tag Archive for: dolphin behavior

How to Draw Dolphins –
Facts About Dolphins & Their Behavior

by Roberta Goodman

Dolphin Facts Continued . . .

Read Part 1 here


Dolphin Facts 12


The flexible dolphin easily bends to the side, but their neck is an extension of the rest of the spine, and the head doesn’t have independent mobility. If you float directly above a rising dolphin, the dolphin turns slightly sideways to see you. Pectoral fins tilt to steer and balance the dolphin and spread out flat to reach for other dolphins on either side.

Dolphin Facts 13


Dolphins appear quite similar to one another until you look closely at scars on the skin and nicks on the fins.


Dolphin Facts 14


Patterns in their bands of color differentiate dolphins too. Dolphins have dark stripes on their faces that I call eye makeup. Some dolphins have a bit more makeup than others.


Dolphin Facts 15


In profile, mature males have a bit of a bump in their genital region.


Dolphin Facts 16


Females have a streamlined ventral profile. Dolphins have genital slits, one for the genitals and one for the anus.


Dolphin Facts 16


Females have two puckers that are nipple slits, one on either side of their genital slit. This is where you will see a baby nursing, turning sideways and briefly placing the end of his beak against the pucker.


Dolphin Facts 17


The baby’s tongue curls and the mom squirts very rich milk into its mouth.

But even full-sized dolphins will be seen with one’s beak pressed against the other’s genital region.


Dolphin Facts 18


Dolphins mate belly to belly. They swim belly to belly quite often, and use the surface to add the pressure of weight to the dolphin on top.

Moms may steer their babies by pushing them to the side or even lifting them out of the water. A mom may hold a baby underwater to increase his interval of breathing, extending his capacity to hold his breath.


Dolphin Facts 19


Dolphins slap the surface in communication. A dolphin may turn upside down and smack the surface with his tail repeatedly. As a dolphin dives, it may give a light tap on the surface with its tail. They may warn with a sideways swipe of the tail or abruptly smack the surface.

Dolphins also head slap the surface, or breach and land sideways.


Dolphin Facts 20


These communications have many meanings and must be looked at in context. After resting, by swimming in lazy circles in a shallow bay, Spinner dolphins may begin breaching as the pod wakes up. The pod is alerted and prepares to move out to sea. No one is left behind.


Image 10


Spinner dolphins spin – they leap free of the water and twist and turn unpredictably.


Image 22


Spotted dolphins may jump 20 feet clear of the water. Dolphins porpoise as they travel quickly.


Image 23


They jump off the top of waves and surf its face. You may see a whole line of dolphins surfing a wave while traveling across the ocean. Waves roll along at 35 knots and dolphins add speed with very little effort by riding the waves.

Small fish may swim near dolphins. Schools of bait fish part at their approach. Some dolphins may have a remora, a sucker fish, attached to their body. The remoras move around the dolphin’s body, eating skin parasites, and sometimes leaving scars. A dolphin may breach repeatedly, almost crazily, trying to dislodge a remora.


Image 24


Manta rays, with wing spans of 10 to 16 feet, are comfortable in the presence of a swirling band of active young dolphins.

Sharks can occasionally slide by, neither bothering the other, but the dolphins remain absolutely alert to its presence.

Dolphins are gregarious. How many dolphins you might see together depends on the species and location, but super-groups of perhaps thousands of any kind or even a mixture of species can occasionally be sighted. In Hawaii, Bottlenose generally travel in small groups of 2-10. Spinners are rarely seen in such small numbers and are more often in groups of 50-600. Spotted dolphins can be in small pods or in pods of 300 or so. Uncountable, dolphin numbers can only be estimated in pods this large. The large pod splits off into sub-pods. Twenty-five may swoop by in formation and continue to rise to breathe and fall to rest together.


Image 631


Sometimes the species mix. A few Spotteds may enter a pod of Spinners. When the Humpback whales come to the islands in the winter, Spinner dolphins can play around them for hours. Bottlenose dolphins are often seen with the Humpbacks. I have filmed four Bottlenose dolphins riding a Humpback’s bow wave on its snout! They looked like whiskers, so small in close comparison to the giant.

(All of the dolphin images used in this article are available for purchase. Contact Roberta for details.)


Return from Facts about Dolphins to the Wild Dolphin Swims Hawaii home page.

All images Copyright (c) Roberta Goodman. All Rights Reserved.

How to Draw Dolphins –
Facts About Dolphins & Their Behavior

by Roberta Goodman

How do you draw dolphins so it seems as though you are swimming beside them observing their lives?

The lives of dolphins in the wild have different perspectives than the lives of Bottlenose dolphins under human care. Although a very popular postcard picture, generally only captive dolphins bring their heads out of the water with their mouths open, and make noises in air. These dolphins are begging for fish or otherwise communicating with their human handlers. Wild dolphins acclimated to being given fish from boats may lift their head with their mouth open, but feeding wild dolphins is illegal and changes their natural behavior.

To learn about dolphins in the wild, you must find out what they are doing under the water.

Dolphins are very social, interactive and playful. Their moods and activities vary during the day. Most of the life of a dolphin, besides hunting, is spent within 60 feet of the surface. As all mammals do, they must breathe air. Dolphins generally come up to breathe every 2 to 5 minutes. In clear water, the sunlight shoots rays right down through this surface layer.


Dolphin Facts 1

If you are floating on the ocean, rays of light converge below you in a wavering point far down in the deep blue. Sunlight shatters on a dolphin’s body into brilliant patterns of sweeping intersecting lines, sparkling glints flitting on the dolphin’s skin. The dark cape on a dolphin’s back is etched in diamonds and stripes, flowing with the waves rolling across the ocean overhead. As dolphins dive deeper, the bands of light disappear and the water darkens. Reds and yellows are lost to the blues and greens of the sea. Dolphins depend on their sonar to see in the gloom, even in pitch blackness, and into distances beyond their eyesight.


Dolphin Facts 2


Dolphins have very good eyesight in air. When boats are near, they often raise their body when breathing so that their eyes lift out of the water.


Dolphin Facts 3


Their ears, almost undetectable pinholes, are then exposed to sounds in air, sounds which are muffled under the water. Sound doesn’t travel far crossing the air-water interface. But underwater, sound travels further and faster than in air. Sound travels so quickly underwater, that it reaches both of our human ears at virtually the same time, making it difficult for us to precisely localize dolphin whistles. Sometimes the dolphin will release a bubble stream while whistling.

We could recognize the sound source better if our ears were separated by 5 feet! Dolphins have a different physiology of hearing which is much more precise at listening to and locating underwater sounds.

There are pelagic dolphin species and pods and nearshore dolphins. Nearshore dolphins can travel, rest, and play in shallow water, gliding above multicolored coral or white sand. A sandy bottom turns the water a gorgeous turquoise.

Dolphin Facts 4I

Dolphin Facts 5


Dolphins in 20 feet of clear water over a sandy bottom are suspended in translucent blues and aqua.

The ocean’s surface, looking up from below, is reflective. Double dolphins appear in a distorted mirror image as they rise to breathe. The dorsal fin slices the mirror’s clarity, leaving a thin wake.


Dolphin Facts 7

Dolphin dorsal fins move up and down, lower and higher through the surface.

Dolphin Facts 8


Shark fins generally move snakelike across their path when relaxing at the surface.

The dolphin’s back breaks into air and the blowhole expels air. You may not see the puff of water and air, or the dolphin may release air in a bubble that throws water aside before the inhalation.

Dolphin Facts 9


TEPUHI – “dolphin” in some Polynesian languages –
TEPU – exhale – HAY – inhale, the dolphin’s breath.
Say it while exhaling and inhaling explosively. This is one dolphin name. Tepuhi, said with the breath.
After three or so breaths, the dolphin rolls into a dive, submerging again.

Dolphin Facts 9


Underwater, dolphins are seen diving together, in slightly staggered unison. Synchronicity is common in dolphin pods. Dolphins rise together and dive together. They swim in zigzags together.

Dolphin Facts 10


Small groups are united in touch. Fins stroke fins. Fins stroke bodies, feathery brushes across another’s throat, chest, belly, and genitals.

Dolphin Facts 11


Fins hold hands as dolphins glide side by side, half asleep, eyes closed.


Dolphin Facts 12


Dolphins see in stereo just a short ways in front of them and below their chests. You can hide behind a dolphin’s tail and the dolphin must arch one way and then the other to peer at you from either eye as you follow right behind him. This is a fun dolphin game.

Click this link to continue learning facts about dolphins, their behavior, and more.



(All of the dolphin images used in this article are available for purchase. Contact Roberta for details.)

Return from Facts about Dolphins to the Wild Dolphin Swims Hawaii home page.

All images Copyright (c) Roberta Goodman. All Rights Reserved.