WHAT DO DOLPHINS EAT?
The world's dolphin populations are made up from almost forty species varying in size from 1.2 m and 40 kg for the Maui's dolphin, and up to 9.5 m and 10 tonnes for the killer whale. They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelf. So clearly, with this much variation within the dolphin family, you can expect the same variation in each species diet.
So, while some dolphins eat fishes like herring, cod or mackerel, others species will prefer to eat squids.
Of course, the largest of all the dolphin species - the killer whales - will also eat marine mammals like seals or sea lions and sometime even turtles.
Usually, the amount of fish that they eat depends on the kind of fish that they hunt. While mackerel or herring will contain a lot of fatty oils in their bodies, squid will not have so much, therefore, to get enough energy required for their activities, dolphins will have to eat a lot more squid than mackerel.
On average, a dolphin with a weight of 200 to 250 Kg will eat between 10 and 25 Kg of fish every day.
How do dolphins catch their food
As you can expect, various methods of feeding exist among and within species, some apparently exclusive to a single population. Fish and squid are the main food, but the false killer whale and the orca (the true killer whale) also feed on other marine mammals like seals. They have been known to eat penguins and even sea turtles!
One common feeding method is herding, where a pod squeezes a school of fish into a small volume, known as a bait ball. Individual members then take turns ploughing through the ball, feeding on the stunned fish.
Corralling is another method where dolphins chase fish into shallow water to more easily catch them. In South Carolina, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin takes this further with "strand feeding", driving prey onto mud banks for easy access.
In some places, orcas come to the beach to capture sea lions. Some species also hit fish with their tails, stunning them and sometimes knocking them out of the water.
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