Key West Dolphins

Key West Dolphins are favorite creatures throughout the world's shallow tropical and temperate oceans. They perform playful antics close enough to shore for people to enjoy. Tour companies provide tours for dolphin watching, a favorite vacation attraction. They have become sort of an official symbol of the U.S. state of Florida, and the city of Miami's pro football team bears their name.

Key West Dolphin Information

A dolphin is a very intelligent marine animal classified in the family of toothed whales along with pilot whales and ocras. They are carnivorous animals with fish and squid being their mainstay. They will have an occasional crustacean. Most are gray with back sides that are darker, but coloration varies. They vary in size from species to species. The Bottlenose Dolphin can grow up to eight feet long and weigh between 400-600 pounds. The Maui's dolphin is only about four feet long and weighs around 90 pounds.

Dolphins are social animals and live in groups called pops that vary from a few to several hundred, making the groups analogous to small towns and bigger cities. Although the dolphin is considered second to orangutans in intelligence, some animal researchers today are quick to challenge that idea. They note that dolphins can copy new sounds and that chimps, apes, and orangutans do not have that ability. They communicate with each other by using distinct whistles and clicks, giving them a sort of language of their own. They use an echolocation system similar to bats for navigating and hunting.

Like elephants, dolphins mourn the deceased members of their pod. They have the ability to feel sadness. They rub up against the dead member and make distinctive sounds. The antics dolphins perform include leaping out of the water in an arc-like formation, spy-hopping, or rising up to an almost standing position to see what is going on, and following boats while synchronizing their movements with them. Scientists say that bow-riding, or following alongside ships serves as a way for the dolphins to conserve energy.

Several military groups around the world, including the United States have trained dolphins to be used for laying underwater mines and locating enemy combatants. Some marine biologists advocate that dolphins should be given the new title of "non-human people" and that it should be wrong to hunt, capture or eat them.

Dolphins mostly mate throughout the whole year. Mating peaks in spring and fall in some locations. Depending on species, the gestation period is between nine and 17 months. The female leaves the pod when it is time to give birth, and will often go closer to the water's surface. The dolphin's offspring is called a calf. Normally, the female gives birth to a single calf and twins are rare. The calf stays with its mother between ages three to eight years.

It is considered a privilege to get to see these wonderful creatures up close. They seem to know that they are entertaining us. Viewing dolphins up close in their natural habitat is an experience not long forgotten.