We named our dolphin tour Dolphins and You for a reason! Dolphins and humans have a deep bond that has been written and talked about for thousands of years. Dolphins have been in art made by people since 1500 B.C., and musings about the relationship between humans and dolphins date back to the time of Aristotle.
So why is it that humans feel so closely connected to these marine animals? Well, it could be because we have so much in common with them. Many people who experience an encounter with wild dolphins in the ocean will even express that they feel the dolphin spoke to them, or that the dolphin encounter changed their life.
But there are also plenty of differences between us and dolphins. In this blog, we’ll touch on some of the most fascinating ways that dolphins are like us, and some of the equally interesting ways that they are different.
Similarities between Dolphins and YOU
Physically, dolphins have more in common with people than one might expect. Dolphins are mammals, just like us. That means they give live birth, and they even have belly buttons!
Dolphins also rely on oxygen and fresh water to survive. They have nostrils on top of their head that take in air when they come to the surface. Dolphins don’t have gills, so they get fresh water only from the fish they eat.
But mentally, dolphins are even more similar to humans. Dolphins and whales have the largest brains in the ocean – even larger than a humans! What they use those brains for is a bit of a mystery. But there are some fascinating similarities between a dolphin’s daily life and a human’s.
Dolphins structure their lives around a pod (or social group). They communicate to other dolphins in their pod by using a wide range of sounds, including clicks and squeaks. Relationships in these pods are intricate. Dolphins can form cliques, get into disagreements and even refer to each other by name!
But most interestingly, dolphins have specialized brain cells dedicated to intelligent thought – just like humans do. This means that dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror, have sophisticated problem solving skills and can experience complex emotions like empathy.
So when you make eye contact with a dolphin on one of our tours, and you feel like that dolphin understands your feelings, he truly might!
Differences between Dolphins and YOU
Of course, there are also many ways that dolphins are physically different than people. Aside from the obvious, dolphins cannot show facial expressions in the same way that humans can. They rely entirely on sound and body language to communicate.
There are some abilities that dolphins have that if humans shared, we would call them superheroes. For instance, dolphins can see with their hearing in a way that’s similar to x-ray vision.
A few dolphins habits would be hard to imagine as a human. For one thing, dolphins never fully sleep. Instead, half of their brain turns off while the other remains awake. This is because dolphins are voluntary breathers. That means they need to be conscious in order to make the choice to breathe the air that they need.
The Dolphins and You staff recommend reading the illuminating book Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey for all of this information and more, narrated in a thoughtful and readable way.
Another way to learn about dolphins is to see them in person! Consider joining a Dolphins and You tour for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with wild dolphins in their natural habitat.