Thursday, April 05, 2007

Do you know Dolphins?

I think I am going to start regularly exploring different animals on the blog. Here is the first: The Dolphin.

I am extremely passionate about animal welfare. I have supported animal rights for years. There is a part of me who really wants to be a marine biologist and conservationist who spends his days saving sea turtles and manatees and other creatures. Perhaps one of the most beautiful and interesting of all the sea creatures is the dolphin.

Despite popular belief, the dolphin and the porpoise are different animals. There are almost forty different species of dolphin. They range in size from 4 feet (Maui Dolphin) to 30 feet (the Orca). The dolphin lives in every sea in the world, but they prefer the shallower waters of the Continental Shelves. Dolphins are carnivores: their diet consists mostly of squid and fish. Dolphins evolved about ten million years ago, during the Miocene.

ANATOMY

Modern dolphin skeletons have two small, rod-shaped pelvic bones thought to be vestigial hind legs.

Dolphins have a streamlined fusiform body, adapted for fast swimming. The basic colouration patterns are shades of grey with a light underside and a distinct dark cape on the back. It is often combined with lines and patches of different hue and contrast.

The head contains the melon, a round organ used for echolocation. In many species, the jaws are elongated, forming a distinct beak; for some species like the Bottlenose, there is a curved mouth which looks like a fixed smile. Teeth can be very numerous (up to two hundred and fifty) in several species. The dolphin brain is large and has a highly structured cortex, which often is referred to in discussions about their advanced intelligence.

Unlike most mammals, dolphins do not have hair, but they are born with a few hairs around the tip of their rostrum which they lose after some time, in some cases even before they are born. The only exception to this is the Boto river dolphin, which does have some small hairs on the rostrum.

SENSES
Most dolphins have acute eyesight, both in and out of the water, and their sense of hearing is superior to that of humans. However, dolphins lack an olfactory nerve and lobes and thus are believed to have no sense of smell, but they can taste and do show preferences for certain kinds of fish.

INTELLIGENCE & SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Dolphins are social, living in pods (also called "schools") of up to a dozen individuals. The individuals communicate using a variety of clicks, whistles and other vocalizations. It is thought that dolphins have their own language. Members of a pod may even have a language that is just their own, as well as a universal language. Dolphins can establish strong bonds between each other. This leads to them staying with injured or ill individuals for support. In May 2005, researchers in Australia discovered a cultural aspect of dolphin behaviour: Some dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) teach their children to use tools. The dolphins break sponges off and cover their snouts with them thus protecting their snouts while foraging. (see photo at right) They are also willing to occasionally approach humans and playfully interact with them in the water. Dolphins have also been known to protect swimmers from sharks by swimming circles around them.

Dolphins often leap above the water surface, sometimes performing acrobatic figures (e.g. the spinner dolphin). Dolphins are used in animal-assisted therapy, particularly for children and adults with Down syndrome and autism.

The year 2007 has been declared as (International) Year of the Dolphin by the United Nations and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

THREAT
Every October, in Japan, dolphins are herded together an massacred for food and also collected to be sold to water parks and zoos. Below, I have a documentary from PBS featuring Hardy Jones, a photographer who went to Japan to do a documentary on dolphins. What he found there shocked him. It will shock you too.

How Can You Help?
Many people are not comfortable with groups like PETA and their guerrila-like tactics and agendas. There is a group called Blue Voice (which was founded by Ted Danson) to help save Dolphins and Whales. Their website is a tome of information on what you can do to help. Every little bit does help. In addition to spreading the word, open your mouth! Blog about this, tell your friends! Never, I repeat NEVER patronize places like Sea World that profit from exploiting these creatures. Volunteer. Pray. Light a Candle. Just do Something. Start by watching this documentary.



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

hola! <3 nice

Anonymous said...

i had no idea anything like that was going on!!!!that is so horrible, i can't believeMURDER is illegal!!!! that is so wrong on so many levels!!!!

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