Dolphin Feeding

Dolphins spend plenty of time finding food daily. They can consume up to 30 pounds of fish per day as adults. They have the ability to use a variety of different feeding techniques that have proven to help them in a variety of settings. In addition to dining on fish, squid is popular.

Experts believe that the process of migrating is often connected with finding enough food. Dolphins will move long distances in order to find enough food at various times. If they have enough food though where they reside and the temperature of the water is also acceptable they aren’t going to migrate.

Herding is one of the most common methods of feeding that the dolphins use. This involves a pod working as a unit to get the school of fish to curl up into a tight ball. Then the dolphins will take turns to rush though and plow the center of that ball, eating all they can in the process. The fish are stunned so they are easier to get this way. Some dolphins have been seen driving prey into the muddy banks so that they can easily access them.

There are certain species of dolphins that will use their flukes too in order to stun their prey. They will hit them hard and then while they are still disoriented they will feed on them. What is very interesting too is that in some locations the dolphins have learned behavior to help the fishermen drive the fish into their nets. The payoff for the dolphins is that they get to feed on the leftover fish that get out of the nets.

There are those dolphins that do take part in individualized hunting. They may be in small subgroups too of just a few dolphins. They have to move in various directions in order to make sure they can get food. It looks uncoordinated and unorganized. Sometimes, group random feeding also occurs with such chaos.

However, most of the time group random feeding does have some direction to it. There are several subgroups of individuals and they create a very cohesive overall strategy to get the food with ease. By going in opposite directions, the prey can become confused and has very little chance of escaping.

The concept of front cooperative feeding involve driving the schools of fish to the shallow areas of the water. Sometimes, this is to the coast or it could be to some type of barrier or even a subgroup of the dolphins. Circular cooperative feeding has been observed with the larger pods of dolphins. They divide into subgroups and then form circles and take part in rapid diving. They will surround schools of fish this way and continue to reduce the overall size of that circle before they take part in consuming what they have surrounded.

Something very similar is the crossing cooperative feeding. This involves the dolphins moving in a cross pattern with groups of them swimming different directions. This allows the fish to be in the middle of the routes that the dolphins have created. Such a strategy usually is a good one to use around the rocky shores and in the shallow areas of small bays.

The use of a zig zag cooperative feeding is more strategic but it can help to get the food with less energy by the dolphins. This type of feeding effort isn’t seen very often though. It usually occurs with very cohesive movements with the dolphins all moving in the same direction and then quickly switching and moving back the other way with a distance of about 100 meters for the zig zag pattern.

Dolphins are very intelligent, so they have the option to create different methods that fit their feeding needs. They have been seen mixing two or more of the mentioned feeding strategies into one session to get results. The ability to create such variations with ease and to create new formations is very interesting to observe. The level of cooperation it takes among the dolphins in the pod is also noted.

Some behaviors seem to be more evident in a given pod than others when it comes to feeding. Part of this stems from the strategies that they have learned work very well in that given location. However, it is also the result of the older dolphins teaching these feeding methods to the newer members of the pod over time.

What may surprise you is that dolphins don’t use their teeth to eat their food. They have 100 teeth but that allows them to grasp food. They swallow their meals so they must consume food that isn’t too large. They have two stomachs like a cow – with one for storing food is first and then food moves to the second one for digestion to take place.

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