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1 Mar 2018
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Sanibel Wildlife

There are few things on Sanibel that stop people in their tracks as well as the sighting of a dolphin.

We can be swimming in the water, walking the beach or boating the Gulf, and one dolphin leaping for joy, let alone a pod swimming together, makes us freeze in our motion and gawk as if a movie star of epic proportions has just entered our view.

But aside from the visual feast they present, dolphins can teach us so very much about how to live, and, how to love.

Dolphins are well known for their agility and playful behavior, making them a favorite of wildlife watchers. Many species will leap out of the water, spy-hop (rise vertically out of the water to view their surroundings) and follow ships, often synchronizing their movements with one another. Scientists believe that dolphins conserve energy by swimming alongside ships, a practice known as bow-riding.

Their ability to have fun is certainly inspiring.

But their inspiration goes far beyond the recreational.

Dolphins live in social groups of five to several hundred. They use echolocation to find prey and often hunt together by surrounding a school of fish, trapping them and taking turns swimming through the school and catching fish. Dolphins will also follow seabirds, other whales and fishing boats to feed opportunistically on the fish they scare up or discard.

The tales of dolphin saving people from sharks or "allowing" humans to save themselves from nets when they have been entangled, are sea lore tales not to be matched. Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals.

They are part of the family of toothed whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. They are found worldwide, mostly in shallow seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating fish and squid. Dolphin coloration varies, but they are generally gray in color with darker backs than the rest of their bodies. To prevent drowning while sleeping only half of the dolphin’s brain goes to sleep while the other half remains awake so they can continue to breathe!

Dolphins mate throughout the year, though in some areas there is a peak in spring and fall.
The gestation period is 9-17 months depending on the species. When it is time to give birth, the female will distance herself from the pod, often going near the surface of the water. While she is giving birth, one other dolphin, male or female, will stand by as nurse to assure that no other creature attacks the birthing mother while in so vulnerable a state. Usually one calf; twins are rare. As soon as the calf is born, the mother must quickly take it to the surface so it can take its first breath. The calf will nurse from 11 months to 2 years, and after it is done nursing it will still stay with its mother until it is between 3 and 8 years old.

Of all our creatures on Sanibel, we find our dolphins the most interesting, awe-inspiring and lovable!