D is for Dolphin

Two kinds of dolphin inhabit Belize: bottlenose and spinner. Both dolphins are mammals, are silver / gray in color, are large (up to 12 feet long and 1000 pounds for the bottlenose), are very intelligent, communicate well with each other and have streamlined bodies. Dolphins have long beaks and long, pointed flippers. They are capable of extremely fast swimming and leaping through the air. But, these agile creatures do not jump through the air simply for fun, sometimes they are avoiding predators or trying to impress potential mates. Dolphins are also skillful divers, reaching depths of 1,640 feet in search of food (dolphins consume 6-8 kilograms of fish each day). To breathe dolphins use the blowhole located at the top of the head to empty and refill their lungs with air. To communicate they often whistle to each other, with each dolphin having a signature whistle. Spinner dolphins are distinguished from other dolphins in their ability to leap out of the water and twist their bodies into elegant curves and spins. It is not known why they do this, but some scientists believe this is one of many forms of communication these dolphins use.

Dolphins can be found in many areas near the reef and along the coast: deep waters, harbors, lagoons, bays, gulfs, and estuaries. Dolphins can live up to 50 years of age and they tend to spend the majority of their life in an area called their home range. They are often seen in pods (a group of dolphins), usually comprised of family members. Spinner dolphins are known to prefer waters near islands that are adjacent to reek

Dolphins eat primarily fish and squid. They grasp prey with their teeth and then swallow it whole. A technique called echolocation (sonar) is used to locate prey, in which pulses and clicks are sent out from the dolphin and bounced off an object. Because these mammals are often very active at night feeding, they sometimes take short naps during the day by floating below the surface and rising slowly to occasionally breathe.

Females become sexually mature at 5-12 years and bear 1 calf every 2"d or 3'" year. Dolphin mothers raise their young like many other mammals. After a gestation period of 12 months, the female gives birth to a calf that will suckle for up to 2 years and stay with its mother for 3-6 years learning feeding techniques and social interaction.

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