Dolphins and their ancestors have adapted to live in the sea for survival. But underwater life comes with its own set of challenges. Least of all, hunting and eating underwater. Dolphins need to hunt, catch the prey and eat underwater. All the while swimming and ensuring the food does not get away.
How Do Dolphins Hunt Underwater?
Dolphins can travel long-distance underwater while foraging. They also hunt in groups most of the time.
Dolphins have very good eyesight that comes useful while hunting. They also use echolocation to find food. They will create short clicks, listen to the echoes, and find the location of the fish. This comes especially useful for river dolphins living in murky water, where they can not see clearly.
Guiana dolphin species can also detect fish by tuning into their electrical fields. They are assumed to use this ability to detect prey at close range, while echolocation is used to detect distant prey.
Bottlenose dolphins are especially known to hunt in pods. They chase schools of fish sometimes at around 25 miles per hour. They can surround the fish from all directions. Individual dolphins swim inside and take turns eating fish, while the pod keeps tight control over the school. This method is called Herding.
Sometimes a Pod goes to coasts or sandbank sea coasts to find food as sandbank offer a good variety of fish. The pod corners the school of fish to the shore. This is called Corraling.
However, if needed, dolphins also hunt food individually. Some dolphins use their fluke to stun or flip the prey out of water.
Some dolphins share their food with the young babies. Or they let the young babies hunt injured prey for practice.
In some areas dolphins have been observed to help fisherman or wait around fishing net. The fisherman throw the leftover fish back in the water that dolphins can consume. Sometimes the dolphins have been found to even drive the fish to the nets.
How Do Dolphins Eat Their Food?
Once the prey is located, dolphins catch it and just suck the food into their mouth using their long tongues. They also filter out the excess water to ensure that minimum sea water goes inside.
Dolphins do not use their teeth to chew. Instead they use teeth to catch their prey and control it firmly. And then swallow the food as a whole starting with the head.
One of the possible reasons they do not chew is because they need to quickly swallow the fish before its swims away.
Dolphin’s food gets digested in their stomach. They have two stomach just like cows – one stores the food and the other one digests.
How Often Does A Dolphin Eat?
Each day, an adult dolphin eat approximately 15 to 30 pounds (6.8 to 13.5 kg) of food per day.
Bottlnose dolphins consume around 4-6% of their body weight per day. While a nursing mother consumes around 8% of their body weight.
Dolphins spend lots of energy chasing the prey and moving in and out of water. So they adjust their feeding time according to the tidal patterns.
Dolphins are also known to cover long distance looking for food. Migrations in search for food are quite common in dolphins.
What Food Does Dolphins Eat?
Dolphins eat a wide variety fo seafood fish, crustaceans, squid, herring, jellyfish and even octopus. Although they tend to prefer certain types of food over others.
Coastal dolphins mostly eat Fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Open ocean dolphins prefer fish and squid more.
Killer whales and other large dolphins can consume bigger marine animals such as seals, sea lions, turtles etc.