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Dolphin Watching in
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dolphins in Virginia BeachDolphin Watching in
Virginia Beach Virginia

Every day in Virginia Beach, dolphins can be seen frolicking in the waters off the coast. They are abundant here due to the attractive nature of the shoreline, which is rich in the fish that dolphins love to eat. Since Virginia Beach is at the tip of the Gulf Stream, where warm waters begin to blend with the colder, northern waters, it is attractive to fish of many species and offers a climate that dolphins enjoy.

Dolphins are mammals, not fish. Just like man, they are warm-blooded. They give birth to one baby at a time. A dolphin’s baby is called a calf. Dolphins live in social groups dominated by a leader. This group is called a “pod”. This bond is so strong that dolphins kept in total isolation will suffer ill health and possibly death. They are highly sociable and interact with one another frequently. It has also been observed that dolphins frequently stroke each other with their flippers, hence, indicating that they require physical contact much like humans. A dolphin’s skin is extremely delicate and easily injured by rough surfaces--very similar to human skin. Their pectoral flippers are used for steering through the water.                   

Dolphins can frequently be seen swimming face to face touching flippers. They appear to swim in synchrony as they twist and turn in groups with perfect harmony.

Dolphins have very powerful tails called “flukes”. When hunting for dinner, they use their tails to “bat” at fleeing fish. They hurl the fish up into the air and out of the water, which stuns the unsuspecting fish. The dolphin is then repositioned
and ready to scoop up the fish when it falls back into the water. This “fish-flipping” technique is rather effective and may even be somewhat entertaining to this intelligent species.

It does seem that the Dolphin may have been blessed with a well developed sense of humor. Dolphins have been known to silently maneuver behind an unsuspecting pelican and snatch its tail feathers -- usually leaving the bird minus a few. Other pranks include grabbing an unsuspecting fish by the tail, and pulling him backward a few feet as well as bothering slow turtles by rolling them over and over. Once a dolphin was seen placing a piece of squid near a grouper’s rock cranny. When the fish came out, the dolphin promptly snatched the bait away, leaving the puzzled fish behind.

There have not been many known instances of dolphin attacks against humans. In fact, they seem to understand when a human is in danger and frequently try to offer some form of assistance.

Dolphins have been known to circle swimmers that are being attacked by a shark, and thrash around to chase off the shark. They have also been known to bump up against sharks and scare them off. Their powerful tails are used as weapons to batter the sharks.

Dolphins have also been known to save drowning swimmers by guiding them safely to shore. They have also been known to save other drowning dolphins. If another dolphin is drowning, other dolphins have been seen coming to its aid, supporting the drowning dolphin with their bodies so that it’s blowhole is above the water, allowing it to breathe.

Dolphin’s teeth are interlocking rows of cone-shaped pegs. This style of tooth is very efficient at holding slippery fish.

The blowhole on the top of their head provides air for breathing. The blowhole closes when the dolphin is under the water. As the dolphin breathes, the air leaves the blowhole at speeds of over 100 mph. Complex nerves surround the blowhole. These nerves sense pressure changes so that the dolphin is able to know exactly when the blowhole is in or nearing the air and can be opened. Dolphins may empty and refill their lungs in less than a fifth of a second.

The amazing thing is how dolphins sleep! They are actually able to shut down half of their brain, which sets their breathing under voluntary control. This is how they are able to take short cat-naps, floating just below the water’s surface.

Dolphins can actually become sun burnt if they strand. (Beach themselves). Their skin is very smooth. This allows them the ability to glide through the water and helps them reduce heat loss.

Dolphins carry their young for about twelve months. The baby emerges tail first, and will nurse with its mother for up to four years. Calves will usually stay with their mother for between 3-6 years. During this time the baby learns how to eat and forages social interaction within the group. Female dolphins may stay with the family pod with their mother and sisters, but males generally tend to leave and form
associations with other males.

They have defined areas in which they roam and feed.  They actually spend a large part of their day looking for food, or actually feeding. They may either hunt alone or as a pod. Their sonar system, (echolocation), to locate fish by sending out streams of pulses and clicks.

Dolphins communicate with each other by whistling and body language. When a calf is born, a mother dolphin will whistle to it constantly, in an effort to imprint her sound on the baby so that it will recognize her. This also helps the baby calf develop his or her own signature whistle, just like a name.

Dolphins in Virginia Beach