Wild Wednesday – Name That Mammal

OK, I’m tossing you a softball here.  Who out there remembers Flipper?  Who’s been to Sea World?  Does anyone not love the bottlenose dolphin?


When people say ‘dolphin’ this is the animal most of us immediately see in out head, but the bottlenose dolphin is only one of almost 40 species within the family Delphinidae.  The Delphinid family also includes killer whales, Pacific whitesided dolphins, and spinner dolphins.

The bottlenose dolphin is the one we pet and feed at Sea World, the one who does the bulk of performing in dolphin shows and in the movies.  Lots and lots of lore and legends surround the dolphin, going back to ancient times.  In Greek mythology the dolphin is linked to the god Apollo, and his temple at Delphi, but also Dionysus, god of wine and revelry.  Maybe that’s why dolphins are always smiling and look like they’re having so much fun?  The Greek myth of Arion tells of dolphins rescuing this famous singer from drowning.  You can read about this legend and more here.

Today, dolphins have a reputation for being intelligent.  New Agers claim they are smarter than us and here to help the us and the planet.  You can find dolphin swim programs all around, just Google it.  Wherever there is warm water and tropical resorts, you are likely to find companies that either have dolphins on site or will take you out to them in their native habitat so you can swim with dolphins.

Who’s in?  I know I would be the first to jump in and play.  One of the most enduring legends about dolphins is their capacity to play and make friends.  I think these two short videos say it all.

Doesn’t that look like fun?  This one though, always warms my heart.

But how smart are dolphins, really?  If you measure it by the things dolphins have made, then not very bright at all.  However, put a human and a dolphin in murky water and ask them to find objects on the bottom or even floating around and the human will look like a floundering idiot.  Current research shows that dolphins give themselves names, called signature whistles, that they develop when they are infants.  Dolphins will use these to get the attention of other dolphins in their social group, or to find each other in murky waters.  Is this language?  Research done by Louis Herman in Hawaii shows that dolphins do possess the ability to understand word order, as shown in this really cool video.

Let’s see…swim and play all day with your best buddies?  Yeah, next life I think I want to be a dolphin.  What would you be if you could choose?