What Do Dolphins Eat? A Look Into Their Dietary Habits

Dolphins are sea mammals. There are over forty species of dolphins. Dolphins are intelligent sea creatures. Dolphins can live in both salty and freshwater. Dolphins are also good and fast swimmers; something that they use to their advantage while hunting. Dolphins move and hunt in groups called pods. Have you ever wondered what dolphins eat or feed on while in the sea? This article will help you get more knowledge about what dolphins eat. You will also get to know dolphins’ hunting techniques and more.

What do dolphins eat in the ocean?

What do dolphins eat in the ocean

It is important to first note that most dolphins are carnivorous. A carnivorous animal feeds on the meat and flesh of other animals. Dolphins are good hunters and are opportunistic feeders. Different species of dolphins prefer different food. A dolphin’s location will also determine the type of food it will decide to eat.

Dolphins have saw-like teeth. They however do not chew their prey. Dolphins bite their prey and swallow. Here are some of the food dolphins feed on

  • Some Fish: dolphins eat fish. The type of fish a dolphin eats will depend on the dolphin’s habitat and the prey available. Some of the fish that dolphins eat include salmon, mackerel, mullet, catfish, shrimp, sawfish, etc.
  • Squid: dolphins love squids. Squids live in the ocean. Squids feed on shrimps, fish, and crabs. A squid’s body contains water. A dolphin gets water to hydrate itself from the squid. This is one of the reasons why dolphins love eating squids
  • Crabs: This is delicacy freshwater dolphins enjoy preying on. You can find crabs close to shores or on the seabed. The dolphins hit the crabs on the water floor for easier eating.
  • Jellyfish: jellyfish are transparent and have tentacles. They use their tentacles to sting their prey.
  • Shrimps: one can find shrimps in salty and freshwater bodies. This makes it easy for both freshwater and salty water dolphins to prey on them.
  • Sea lions, sharks, seals, and other whales: the Orcas feed on these. Orcas are one of the largest sea creatures. They need bigger prey and hence they hunt sea lions, sharks, seals, and sometimes dolphins.

Dolphins do not drink salty seawater. Drinking salty water can make them have stomach upset. Dolphins get their water from the food they eat.

How do dolphins get their food?

Dolphin calves get their food through their mother’s mammary glands. The mammary glands have inverted nipples that provide milk to the calf immediately after it is born. The dolphin mother gets its milk from the food it eats.

Dolphins hunt for their food. Most dolphins are carnivorous and hence eat fish, squids, shrimps, jellyfish, and octopuses. The killer whale hunts down animals such as seals, sea lions, penguins, and salmons.

Dolphin hunting methods

Dolphins hunt for their food. The hunting methods they use to get their food are interesting. Dolphins live in pods. This makes hunting way much easier. Living in pods also acts as protection when predators like sharks want to attack them.

Dolphin hunting methods

When dolphins spot a school of fish, they use their pod to their advantage. They are intelligent sea creatures. They communicate with each other and surround the school of fish. This gives the fish a very small gap to escape. Once the school of fish is cornered, the dolphins open their mouths and catch the fish in turns.

Another method dolphins use is to make the fish swim to really shallow water. Once in shallow water, it is easier for the dolphins to catch the fish since they can breathe out of water. Most of the fish who swim to the shallow waters hardly have a chance for survival.

Once a dolphin spots a school of fish, a crab, squid, or any of the animals it preys on, near the seabed or on it, it uses this to its advantage. A dolphin will use its tail to hit the seabed. This will result in the water forming some mud. The fish will get confused and a dolphin will take it as the chance to prey on the fish.

Some dolphins hunt by following fishing boats and ships. While the fish are being caught, the dolphin waits for some fish that escape out of the fishing net and feed on them. Sometimes, the anglers or fishermen throw back into the sea some fish that they did not intend to catch. Dolphins get food out of this.

If a dolphin wants to prey on a bigger fish, it uses its tail. A dolphin’s tail is strong. With just one hit, the fish becomes disoriented. The hit sometimes breaks the prey into pieces and this allows the dolphin to eat the prey.

A dolphin will go to the seabed where there are seaweeds or plants. Some fish hide in such places. It will hit the plants with its tail and the fish hiding there will become afraid. As they try to escape, the dolphin will be able to capture and swallow them.

Dolphins also move quietly and in a careful manner toward their prey. By doing this, the prey does not suspect anything might happen. When a dolphin is close enough, it then suddenly catches the prey before they understand what is going on.

Dolphins do not chew their food. If the prey is too large, dolphins are intelligent enough to hit it on the seabed for it to break into particles. Sometimes, dolphins hit their prey on the surface of the water to break them for easier feeding.

How long can a dolphin hold its breath?

Dolphins are sea mammals. Dolphins need air to survive. Dolphins have lungs instead of gills hence cannot breathe underwater. The duration that a dolphin takes underwater depends on many factors. On average, a dolphin can hold its breath for 8 to 10 minutes. After this, it needs to go up to the surface of the water to get some oxygen.

How long can a dolphin hold its breath

A dolphin uses the blowhole, which is the nostril, located at the top of its head to breathe. This blowhole opens up when a dolphin is out of the water. The blowhole allows air to get into the dolphin’s lungs. When a dolphin is ready to go back inside the water, the blowhole closes tightly to avoid any water from going into the dolphin’s lungs.

Dolphins also use their lungs for breathing. The dolphin’s lung is a bit different from the human lung. Dolphins’ lungs have more air spaces.

How many stomachs do dolphins have?

A dolphin has three stomachs. All three chambers play an important role in a dolphin’s digestive system. Dolphins do not chew their food. They bite the food and swallow it. Once this is done, the food goes to the first chamber.

In the first chamber of a dolphin’s stomach, the food the dolphin swallowed is stored and received. This first chamber is the largest of the three chambers. Once the food has been stored, it is taken to the second chamber or the main stomach.

In the second chamber, digestion happens here. In the second chamber, the stomach releases dome enzymes. These enzymes help in the breaking down of the food that the dolphin ate and passed to the second chamber.

The third chamber is the pyloric compartment. This chamber completes the digestion of the food eaten. In the pyloric compartment, the finalization of digestion happens. The waste goes into the small intestines, large intestines, then later released as poop.

Do dolphins eat meat and plants?

Dolphins are mostly carnivorous. This means that they eat meat and flesh. The choice of their food depends on what is available in their area. Dolphins love eating fish, shrimps, squid, jellyfish, and crustaceans. Dolphin’s prey is available in both salty and freshwater.

The Orca, a type of dolphin, feeds on larger prey such as sea lions, penguins, seals, sharks, and sometimes dolphins.

Dolphins like to experiment and are naturally curious sea creatures. If dolphins cannot find fish or their preferred prey, they sometimes do feed on seaweed and small rocks.

Do dolphins eat jellyfish?

The simple answer is yes. Spinner dolphins love jellyfish and are often seen eating Jellyfish. You can find spinner dolphins in areas with warm waters. They can weigh up to 82kg. Their diet mainly consists of small fish, squid, and shrimps.

Spinner dolphins are very good divers and during their deep dives, they eat jellyfish and krill found in their way.

Do dolphins eat tuna?

Dolphins do eat tuna if they are available in their location. If not available, the dolphins will eat other fish. Tuna has many benefits to dolphins. For dolphins to survive and be healthy, they need to eat nutritious food.

Do dolphins eat tuna

Tuna is full of omega 3 which are important in a dolphin’s body. The Omega 3 helps to reduce the level of cholesterol in a dolphin’s body. This saves the dolphin’s heart. Reduced cholesterol also helps the dolphin to move in water fast.

Tuna is also full of vitamin D and proteins. Both of these are good for a dolphin’s health and help in the growth of dolphins.

Since tuna is a big fish, a dolphin can be unable to swallow it whole. It hits the tuna on the surface of the water or the seabed and tears it into pieces. This makes it easier for a dolphin to eat the tuna.

Dolphins sometimes hunt for tuna by practicing the herding method. This is where a pod of dolphins will surround a school of tuna. The pod will make sure there are no spaces for the tuna to escape and in turn, they will attack the tuna and swallow the fish.

When fishermen are fishing, they sometimes throw back into the sea some tuna they think is not good. Dolphins wait for such opportunities to eat the thrown tuna. During fishing, some tuna also get away from the net and dolphins get the chance and prey on them.

Do dolphins eat penguins?

Orcas are the biggest species of dolphins. They are so big and can weigh up to 8000kgs. Orcas eat over 200kgs of food in a day. Orcas, like dolphins, live in pods.

Orcas or killer whales are good predators. Their diet will depend on their location and the food available at the specific habitat. Killer whales love eating salmons. Killer whales can also eat sea lions, seals, sharks, and penguins.

Penguins are flightless aquatic birds. In the Antarctic regions, killer whales hunt penguins. They do this by targeting the penguins on the large floating ice and sliding to catch their prey. Orcas also use their tails to hit the water around the ice. A wave will form hit the penguin. The penguin will fall into the water and the orca will eat it.

Do dolphins eat seals?

Yes. Orcas, which are dolphins, do eat seals. A pod of orcas will use the herding technique to capture a seal. The pod will surround a group of seals and encircle them. Since the killer whales are larger than the seals, they will feed on the seals.

Just like dolphins, killer whales do not chew their food. If a killer whale catches a seal, it swallows the seal whole.

A killer whale’s body is black and white. It is an advantage to the killer whale since it can hide in the sea. It will be difficult for a seal to spot the killer whale. The killer whale will have lured its prey and will eventually eat it.

Wrap up

From this article, dolphins eat different types of prey depending on their location and the prey available. Dolphins can eat fish like salmon, tuna, and catfish. Dolphins also eat squids, shrimps, octopuses, and crabs. The killer whale feeds on seals, penguins, sharks, and sometimes dolphins.

Dolphins have mastered different techniques of hunting their prey down. Dolphins also have a good respiratory system that allows them to stay underwater for up to 10 minutes. Dolphins have 3 stomachs which aid them in the digestion of the food they eat. 

I am Mcman a fish lover. I love fishing since my childhood as may father was also a fisherman. I share all of my experiences in this blog. Stay connected with me to know new findings on Fishing.

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