Dolphins are one of the most intelligent marine mammals. They are known to be playful and often frolic in a boat’s wake, leaping out of the water. Their faces seem to have a constant “smile” easily recognizable by their curved mouths. As mammals, they have warm blood and nurse their young, an offspring will stay with the mother for up to six years, depending on the species. The way they glide through the water and sail through the air is nothing short of magical. There are 36 dolphin species, found in every ocean. Dolphins feed chiefly on fish and squid. Living in pods that can number a dozen or more, dolphins are intensely social mammals that communicate with squeaks, whistles, and clicks. Whether dolphins have language, as humans do, is a topic that scientists have debated for decades.
Apart from their adorable features and friendly nature, they also possess the superpower to see with sound! It's true! It's called echolocation, and dolphins share the use of this unique way of “seeing" the world with other animals, such as whales, porpoises, and bats. Echolocation works similarly to an ultrasound. It gives a dolphin the capacity to explore their environment 3-dimensionally and aids in navigation and hunting in low light and low visibility environments. Echolocation allows dolphins to “see" by interpreting the echoes of sound waves that bounce off of objects near them in the water.
Using a combination of regular sight and echolocation, dolphins are able to determine the shape, speed, distance, size, the direction of travel, and even some basic facts about the internal structure of objects in the water around them. An echolocating bottlenose dolphin can make up to a thousand clicking noises per second.
They emit sounds, or clicks, from their nasal passages, which are then passed through their head. Their forehead is filled with a fluid that focuses the sounds in different directions. To echolocate objects nearby, dolphins produce high-frequency clicks. These clicks create sound waves that travel quickly through the water around them. In fact, sound waves travel almost five times faster through water than they do through air. The sound waves then bounce off of objects of interest and are received by the dolphin’s lower jaw as an echo. Echolocation is very efficient. Bottlenose dolphins are capable of distinguishing an object the size of a ping-pong ball from a football field away.
Scientists are still baffled by the intelligence and complexity that these amazing mammals hold. There is so much more to know about these creatures but unfortunately, due to pollution and increasing fishers, they are decreasing in population.