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Baltic Dolphin Reef Project
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{ tandhvaler } .. { biologi } .. { anatomi } .. { øresvin } .. { hvidnæse } .. { marsvin }

Delfiners biologi - typiske spørgsmål
  • Hvordan sover delfiner?
  • Hvor intelligente er delfiner ?
  • Hvordan kommunikerer delfiner - og har de deres eget sprog?
  • Hvordan virker deres sonar?
  • Kan delfiner kombinere information fra deres sonar med deres synsevne?
  • Hvad og hvor meget spiser delfiner?
  • Hvor gamle kan de blive?
  • Lever delfiner kortere i fangenskab?
  • Hvordan kan man kontakte vilde delfiner?
  • Hvorfor strander hvaler og delfiner?
  • Hvor dybt kan delfiner dykke?
  • Hvor hurtigt kan delfiner svømme?
  • Hvor finder vi delfiner?
  • Kan delfiner leve i ferskvand?
  • Hvordan drikker delfiner vand?

 

 


Hvordan sover delfiner ?

Delfiner er nødt til at ånde bevidst (Williams et al 1990). dette betyder, at de ikke kan sove helt, for så ville de kvæles. Delfiner har 'løst' dette problem ved kun at lade den ene halvdel af hjernen sove af gangen. dette er blevet fastslået ved EEG-studier af delfiner. Delfiner sover omkring 8 timer hvert døgn på denne måde. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) søvnperioder, som forbindes med drømmeaktivitet, er noteret hos delfiner, men er sjældne. Enkelte videnskabsfolk hævder, at REM søvn ikke findes hos delfiner.

Delfiners adfærd under søvnen afhænger af omstændighederne og muligvis af individuelle valg. De kan enten

  • svømme langsomt rundt og gå til overfladen af og til
  • hvile i overfladen med åndehullet åbent
  • hvile på bunden i lavt vand og stige til overfladen nu og da for at ånde

Kilder:

  • S.H. Ridgway (1990): The Central Nervous System of the Bottlenose Dolphin, in S. Leatherwood and R.R. Reeves: The Bottlenose Dolphin, pp. 69-97, Academic Press.
  • Th.D. Williams, A.L. Williams and M. Stoskopf (1990) Marine Mammal Anesthesia. In: L.A. Dierauf (ed.): Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine: Health, Disease and Rehabilitation, pp. 175-191 CRC Press, Boca Raton

 

Delfiner siges at tilbringe omkring en tredjedel af deres døgn med at hvile eller slappe af og en tredjedel med at lege eller parre sig. Erfaringer fra Port Stevens fortælelr, at der ikke er noget fast mønster heri. De er lige så ofte aktive om natten som på forskellige tidspunkter om dagen

 


Hvor intelligente er delfiner ?

Det korte svar er, at det ved vi ikke. Der er inge pålidelige måder at måle intelligens på for mennekser med forskellig kulturbaggrund. Det er derfor ikke overraskende, at det er umuligt at sammenligne mennesker, delfiner, aber, hunde osv med hinanden. Der er dog visse indikationer på deres potentiale: De lærer hurtigt og kan generalisere (hvilket grise også kan). Ligeledes kan de lære at forstå komplicerede sproglige kommandoer (hvilket også de store aber kan).

Problemet er, at vi prøver at sammenligne delfin-intelligens med menneske-intelligens på vores sædvanlige selvcentrerde (homocentriske) måde. Hvis vi antager, at delfiner opfatter verden på en helt anden måde, end vi gør, er der ingen grund til at tro, at ders intelligens ligner vores overhovedet. Vi er nødt til at finde en anden måde at måle intelligens på, frem for at lære dem vort sprog eller at betjene en computer. Det er blevet påvist, at delfiner har selvbevidsthed samt at deres forbløffende alsidighed og opfindsomhed er veldokumenteret og illustreres af f.eks. deres bobleringe, der ligner cigarrygeres røgringe.

 


Hvordan kommunikerer delfiner - og har de deres eget sprog?

Delfiner taler sammen ved hjælp af lyde. Disse lyde omfatter fløjt, men også de såkaldte pulserende lyde, der ofte beskrives som kvæk, gøen, knitren etc. Men de benytter også plasken (springe op i luften og falde ned med et plask) samt rygfinne eller halefinne slag på vandoverfladen. Ligeledes kropspositurer og kæbesmækken har en rolle i deres kommunikation. Og der er flere træk endnu.

Med hensyn til sprog ved vi endnu ikke, om de har noget. Flere stuier har godtgjort, at delfiner fatter et struktureret sprog som vores. Det samme er blevet vist for en række andre dyr, såsom gorilla bonobo, søløve og papegøje. Nogle studier har sandsynliggjort, at delfiners lydregister er komplekst nok til at bære et egentligt sprog. Imidlertid savner vi endnu at bevise, at de rent faktisk benytter et sprog, når de taler sammen.

Vi har hørt delfiner syne i vandet samt benytte kliklyde og fløjt, når de kommunikerer. Når man hører denne variationsrigdom er det vanskeligt at tro, at de ikke har et sprog. Det menes, at de giver hinanden navne eller 'lydsignaturer' for at kunne identificere hinanden. Måske kan de vi sonar sende 'billeder' til hinanden, hvilket ville gøre deres sprog meget visuelt og fleksibelt.

 


Hvordan virker delfiners sonar ?

Delfiner og andre tandhvaler kan skabe højtonede kliklyde. Når disse kliklyde rammer en genstand, vil noget af lyden ekkoe tilbage til afsenderen. Ved at lytte til ekkoet og vurdere tiden, det tog for det at komme tilbage, kan delfinen anslå afstanden til genstanden. Det er derfor sonar også kaldes 'ekkolod': ud fra ekkoet kan delfinen lokalisere en genstand.

Afhængig af genstandens materiale, vil noget af lyden trænge igennem genstanden og reflektere dens indre opbygning. Hvis genstanden er en fisk, vil noget af lyden blive kastet tilbage af skællene og noget af knoglerne og de indre organer - samt af skællene på den anden side. Så en enkelt klik kan sende en række svagere ekkoer tilbage. Disse vil give delfinen information om størrelse og opbygning af fisken. Ved at bevæge sit hovede og dermed sende klik i andre retninger, kan delfinen få flere sådanne informationer om fisken.

Det er som med lægernes ultralysscannere, men resultaterne er mindre klare. Ultralydscanenren bevæger sig meget hurtigt frem og tilbage, meget hurtigere, end en delfin kan bevæge sit hovede. Ligeledes er frekvenserne i ultralysscanneren meget højere end delfinens sonar. Derfor er ultralydscanningen præcisere end delfinens scanning. Men princippet er det samme.

Hvis du ønsker teknisk information om delfiners sonar, så tjek denne bog: W.W.L.Au (1993) The sonar of dolphins. (Springer-Verlag New York).

Man mener, at delfiners sonar er et meget raffineret instrument. Forsøg har vist, at de kan skelne mellem genstande af samme form, men forskellig tekstur (f.eks. ring af massivt eller hult materiale). Lydspektret er langt større, end vi kan høre, og lyden rejser fire gange så hurtigt i vand som i luft. Mange delfinterapeuter mener, at sonaren kan have en gavnlig effekt på mennesker, hvor den udløser endorfiner og har kraftig healende effekt. Det store spørgsmål er naturligvis, om delfinerne ved, at de kan gøre disse ting.

 


Kan delfiner kombinere information fra deres sonar med deres synsevne?

Det korte svar er: Ja, de kan. Ligesom mennesker kan visualisere en genstand ved blot at røre den, kan delfiner få en ide om en genstands udseende ved at scanne den med sonaren.

Læs mere på : austarmetro.com.au/~dolphins/

  • How do dolphins sleep?
  • How intelligent are dolphins?
  • How do dolphins communicate and do they have their own language?
  • How does dolphin sonar work?
  • Can dolphins combine information from their sonar with their vision?
  • What and how much do dolphins eat?
  • How old can they get?
  • Do dolphins live shorter in captivity?
  • How did dolphins evolve?
  • How can you interact with wild dolphins?
  • Why do whales and dolphins beach themselves?
  • How deep can dolphins dive?
  • How fast can dolphins swim?
  • Where can you find dolphins?
  • Can dolphins live in fresh water?
  • How do dolphins get their water?

 


How do dolphins sleep?

Dolphins have to be conscious to breathe (Williams et al, 1990). This means that they cannot go into a full deep sleep, because then they would suffocate. Dolphins have "solved" that by letting one half of their brain sleep at a time. This has been determined by doing EEG studies on dolphins. Dolphins sleep about 8 hours a day in this fashion. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, usually associated with dreaming has been recorded only very rarely. Some scientists claim dolphins do not have REM sleep at all.

A dolphin's behaviour when sleeping/resting depends on the circumstances and possibly on individual preferences. They can either:

  • swim slowly and surface every now and then for a breath
  • rest at the surface with their blowhole exposed
  • rest on the bottom (in shallow water) and rise to the surface every now and then to breathe.

Sources: S.H Ridgway (1990) The Central Nervous System of the Bottlenose Dolphin, in S. Leatherwood and R.R. Reeves: The Bottlenose Dolphin, pp. 69-97, Academic Press.

Th.D. Williams, A.L. Williams and M. Stoskopf (1990) Marine Mammal Anesthesia. In: L.A. Dierauf (ed.): Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine: Health, Disease and Rehabilitation, pp. 175-191 CRC Press, Boca Raton

Dolphins are said to spend about one-third of their day sleeping/resting, one-third eating and one-third playing or making love. In our experience with the dolphins of Port Stephens there is no fixed pattern; they are often active at night and at different times of the day.

 


How intelligent are dolphins?

The short answer to this is that we do not know. There is no reliable method to measure intelligence in humans across cultures, so it is not surprising that comparing humans, dolphins, apes, dogs, etc. is impossible. There are some indications of their potential: they are fast learners and can generalise (which is also true of pigs, BTW). Also they can learn to understand complicated language-like commands (which is also true of the great apes).

The problem is that we try to compare dolphin intelligence with human intelligence in our usual, homocentric fashion. Given that dolphins perceive their world in a totally different way to us, and also live in a totally different world to us, there are no grounds to assume that their intelligence is in any way like ours. We need to come up with different ways of measuring their intelligence, instead of trying to teach them to speak English or use computer keyboards. It has been shown that dolphins have self-awareness , and their amazing dexterity and inventiveness is ably illustrated by their bubble-ring manipulation.

 


How do dolphins communicate and do they have their own language?

Dolphins communicate mainly by means of sounds. These sounds include whistles, but also so-called pulsed sounds, which are often described as squawks, barks, rasps, etc. But they also use breaching (jumping and falling back into the water with a loud splash) and pectoral fin (or flipper) and tail (or fluke) slaps (hitting the flipper or fluke on the water surface). Body posturing and jaw popping also have a role in communication. This list is not exhaustive.

As for language, we do not know if they have one. Several studies have demonstrated that dolphins can understand a structured language like ours. This same has been demonstrated for a number of other animals species as well (gorilla, bonobo, California sea lion, parrot). Some studies also indicate that dolphin vocalisations are complex enough to support some form of language. However, to date it has not been demonstrated yet that they indeed use a language for communication among themselves.

We have heard wild dolphins in the water, using clicks and whistles to communicate. When you hear the richness and variety of these sounds it's not difficult to believe that they do indeed have a language. It is thought that they give each other names, or "signature sounds" to identify each other. Perhaps they can send sonar "images" to each other, which would make their language extremely visual and flexible.

 


How does dolphin sonar work?

Dolphins (and other toothed whales) can produce high pitched clicks. When these clicks hit an object, some of the sound will echo back to the "sender". By listening to the echo and interpreting the time it took before the echo came back, the dolphin estimate the distance of the object. (That's why sonar is also called echolocation: with information from the echoes, a dolphin can locate an object).

Depending on the material the object is made of, part of the sound may penetrate into the object and reflect off internal structure. If the object is a fish, some sound will reflect off the skin on the dolphin's side, some of the bones, the internal organs and the skin on the other side. So one click can result in a number of (weaker) echoes. This will give the dolphin some information about the structure and size of the fish. By moving its head (thereby aiming the clicks at other parts of the fish) the dolphin can get more information on other parts of the fish.

It is like a medical ultrasound probe, but the results are far less clear. A medical probe moves back and forth very rapidly, much faster than a dolphin can move its head. Also the frequency of the sounds of the medical probe is much higher than a dolphin's sonar. Therefore the level of detail the echoes can provide is much higher in the medical probe.

For technical information on dolphin sonar, check out the following book: W.W.L.Au (1993) The sonar of dolphins. (Springer-Verlag New York).

We believe that the dolphins' sonar is highly sophisticated. Tests have shown that they can distinguish between two identical-looking objects with different densities (e.g. solid and hollow spheres), and containers with complicated shapes inside them. The range of frequencies used is far wider than we can hear, and sound travels four times faster in water than in air. Many dolphin therapists (ourselves included!) believe that the sonar can have a beneficial effect on people, triggering the release of endorphins and having powerful healing effects. Of course, the big question is whether the dolphins know they can do this!

 


Can dolphins combine information from their sonar with their vision?

 

The short answer is: yes, they can. Just like people can visualise an object by just touching it, dolphins can get an idea of what an object looks like by scanning it with their sonar. They can also identify objects with their sonar that they have only been able to see. If they form a visual picture from the sonar information (visualisation) or form an acoustical picture from visual information is still unresolved. This capability is called cross-modal transfer and it has been demonstrated in only a few animal species so far: the bottlenose dolphin and the California sea lion.

 

See the following references for more details on this subject:

R.J. Schusterman, D. Kastak and C. Reichmuth (1995) Equivalence class formation and cross-modal transfer: testing marine mammals. In: R.A. Kastelein, J.A. Thomas and P.E. Nachtigall (eds): Sensory systems of Aquatic Mammals, pp. 579-584 De Spil Publishers, Woerden, the Netherlands ISBN 90-72743-05-9

A.A. Pack and L.M. Herman (1995) Sensory integration in the bottlenosed dolphin: Immediate recognition of complex shapes across the senses of echolocation and vision J. Acoustical Society of America 98(2) Part 1: 722-733

 


What and how much do dolphins eat?

Bottlenose dolphins eat several kinds of fish (including mullet, mackerel, herring, cod) and squid. The composition of the diet depends very much on what is available in the area they live in and also on the season. The amount of fish they eat depends on the fish species they are feeding on: mackerel and herring have a very high fat content and consequently have a high caloric value, whereas squid has a very low caloric value, so to get the same energy intake (calories) they will need to eat much more if they feed on squid than if they feed on mackerel or herring. On average an adult dolphin will eat 4-9% of its body weight in fish, so a 250 kg (550 lbw) dolphin will eat 10-22.5 kg (22-50 lb) fish per day.

 


How old can they get?

The maximum age for bottlenose dolphins is between 40 and 50 years. The average age a dolphin can get (the life expectancy) can be calculated from the Annual Survival Rate (the percentage of animals alive at a certain point, that is still alive one year later). For the dolphin population in Sarasota Bay, the ASR has been measured to be about 0.961. This yields a life expectancy of about 25 years. For the population in the Indian/Banana River area, the ASR is between 0.908 and 0.931. This yields a life expectance between 10.3 and 14 years. So the actual life expectancy differs per region.

Sources: R.S. Wells and M.D. Scott (1990) Estimating bottlenose dolphin population parameters from individual identification and capture-release techniques. Report International Whaling Commission (Special Issue 12): 407-415

S.L.Hersch, D.K.Odell, E.D.Asper (1990) Bottlenose dolphin mortality patterns in the Indian/Banana River System of Florida, in S. Leatherwood and R.R. Reeves: The Bottlenose Dolphin, pp. 155-164, Academic Press

 


Do dolphins live shorter in captivity?

No. A recent study, comparing the survival of dolphins in captivity from 1940 through 1992 showed no significant difference in ASR between the "captive population" and the Sarasota Bay population. The ASR for the captive population was 0.944 (life expectancy: 17.4 years). Also in captivity dolphins have reached ages over 40 years.

Source: R.J.Small and D.P.DeMaster (1995) Survival of five species of captive marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 11(2):209-226.

The mortality rate amongst captive dolphins may be low, but their health and well-being suffers from captivity; they lose the ability to hunt, they are taken from their families (such as Keiko the orca of "Free Willy" fame) and most are forced to live in concrete pools. Perhaps when we can establish proper communication with them, the dolphins might tell us what they think of captivity...

 


How did dolphins evolve?

The earliest recognisable cetaceans lived about 50 million years ago. These evolved from the Mesonychids: large land mammals, some of which were carnivorous, some herbivorous. The earliest cetaceans were members of the now extinct family Archaeoceti (the best known of which are Zeuglodon and Basilosaurus). 38-25 million years ago the Archaeoceti disappeared and were replaced by the early Odontocetes (toothed whales) and Mysticetes (baleen whales). The earliest dolphins appeared in the late Miocene period, some 11 million years ago.  The land animals that are closest to whales and dolphins are the Ungulates (hoofed animals). This was determined among others by comparing the structure of body proteins.

Source: P.G.H.Evans (1987) The Natural History of Whales and Dolphins. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.

 


How can you interact with wild dolphins?

When swimming, boating or snorkelling in certain areas you can encounter wild dolphins. Keep in mind that in the US it is illegal to directly approach dolphins. If dolphins come towards you and choose to interact, that is allowed. In several areas there are boat operators that can take you to areas where there is a good chance to encounter dolphins (Florida, Bahamas). A note of warning: there have been operators that have tried to lure dolphins by feeding them. This is illegal in the US and is highly undesirable, because it changes the dolphins' behaviour. Currently there are operators offering bird-feeding tours. These bird feedings take place in areas frequented by dolphins and are an attempt to circumvent the dolphin feeding ban. Do not use these operators.

We take small numbers of people to meet wild dolphins on our research trips . We are fully licensed by the authorities and all interactions happen on the dolphins' terms; they initiate and terminate any interaction with us. Feeding and other methods of attracting dolphins are highly undesirable as well as illegal in many places.

 


Why do whales and dolphins beach themselves?

If a single whale or dolphin strands, it usually is a very sick (and exhausted) animal. Such an animal often has some infections (pneumonia is almost always one of them) and a lot

of parasites (worms in the nasal passages are very common). Sometimes these animals can be rehabilitated, but often they are so sick they won't make it. Some species of whales and dolphins occasionally strand in groups. A stranding of 2 or more animals is usually called a mass stranding. There are a number of theories that try to explain the occurrence of mass strandings. No theory can adequately explain all of them. In some cases it will be a combination of causes. The most common explanations are:

deep water animals (the species that most often are the victim of mass strandings) can not "see" a sloping sandy beach properly with its sonar. They detect the beach only when they are almost stranded already and they will panic and run aground (Source: W.H. Dudok van Heel (1962): Sound and Cetacea. Neth. J. Sea Res. 1: 407-507).

whales and dolphins may be navigating by the earth's magnetic field. When the magnetic field is disturbed (this occurs at certain locations) the animals get lost and may run into a beach (Source: M. Klinowska (1985): Cetacean live stranding sites relate to geomagnetic topography. Aquatic Mammals 11(1): 27-32).

in some highly social species, the group leader may be sick and wash ashore. The other members try to stay close and may strand with the group leader (Source: F.D. Robson (?) The way of the whale: why they strand - unpublished manuscript).

when under severe stress or in panic, the animals may fall back to the behaviour of their early ancestors and run to shore to find safety (Source: F.G. Wood (1979) The cetacean stranding phenomena: a hypothesis. In: J.B. Geraci and D.J. St. Aubin: Biology of marine mammals: Insights through strandings. Marine Mammal Commission report no: MMC-77/13: pp. 129-188).

 


How deep can dolphins dive?

The deepest dive ever recorded for a bottlenose dolphin was a 300 meters (990 feet). This was accomplished by Tuffy, a dolphin trained by the US Navy. Most likely dolphins do not dive very deep, though. Many bottlenose dolphins live in fairly shallow water. In the Sarasota Bay area, the dolphins spend a considerable time in waters that are less than 2 meters (7 feet) deep. Other whale and dolphin species are able to dive to much greater depths even. The pilot whale (Globicephala melaena) can dive to at least 600 meters (2000 feet) and a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) has been found entangled in a cable at more that 900 meters (500 fathoms) depth. Recent studies on the behaviour of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) has revealed that they regulary dive to depths of 800 meters. The deepest dive recorded of a beluga was to 1250 meters.

Sources: F.G. Wood (1993) Marine mammals and man. R.B. Luce, Inc., Washington.

E.J. Slijper (1979) Whales, 2nd edition. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. (Revised re-issue of the 1958 publication: Walvissen, D.B. Centen, Amsterdam).

R.S. Wells, A.B. Irvine and M.D. Scott (1980) The social ecology of inshore odontocetes. In: L.M. Herman (ed.): Cetacean Behaviour. Mechanisms & functions, pp. 263-317. John Wiley & Sons, New York A.R. Martin (1996) Using satellite telemetry to aid the conservation and wise management of beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) populations subject to hunting. Paper presented at the 10th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society, March 11-13, 1996, Lisbon, Portugal.

 


How fast can dolphins swim?

The dolphin's fast cruising speed (a travelling speed they can maintain for quite a while) is about 3-3.5 m/s (6-7 knots, 11 - 12.5 km/hr). They can reach speeds of up to 4.6 m/s (9.3 knots, 16.5 km/hr) while travelling in this fashion. When they move faster, they will start jumping clear of the water (porpoising). They are actually saving energy by jumping.

When chased by a speedboat, dolphins have been clocked at speeds of 7.3 m/s (14.6 knots, 26.3 km/hr), which they maintained for about 1500 meters, leaping constantly.

Energetic studies have shown, that the most efficient travelling speed for dolphins is between 1.67 and 2.27 m/s (3.3-4.5 knots, 6.0-8.2 km/hr).

There have been reports of dolphins travelling at much higher speeds, but these refer to dolphins being pushed along by the bow wave of a speeding boat. They were getting a free ride (their speed relative to the surrounding water was low). It is possible that dolphins can reach speeds over 15 knots during very short bursts (like in preparation for a high jump), but they can't maintain that speed.

Sources: D. Au and D. Weihs (1980) At high speeds dolphins save energy by leaping. Nature 284(5756): 548-550

T.M.Williams, W.A.Friedl, J. A. Haun, N.K.Chun (1993) Balancing power and speed in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in: I.L. Boyd (ed.): Marine Mammals - Advances in behavioural and population biology, pp. 383-394. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London No. 66. Clarendon Press, Oxford

 


Where can you find dolphins?

Whales and dolphins can be found in almost every sea and ocean, from the Arctic ocean, through the tropics all the way to the Antarctic. Each species however has its own prefered type of habitat. Some live cold water only, others in tropical oceans only. There are also species that can be found in a large variety of environments, like the bottlenose dolphins, killer whales and sperm whales.

Source: P.G.H.Evans (1987) The Natural History of Whales and Dolphins. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.

 


Can dolphins live in fresh water?

There are a number of dolphin species that live in fresh water. They all belong to the river dolphin families. These are the Platanistidae (Ganges and Indus river dolphins), the Iniidae (the boto or Amazon river dolphin) and the Pontoporiidae (the baiji and the franciscana). There is one species that can be found both in fresh water (the Amazon river) and in coastal sea waters: the tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). In general, salt water species don't do well in fresh water. They can survive for some time, but they will be come exhausted (since they have less buoyancy in fresh water) and after a while their skin will start to slough (like our own skin after spending a long time in the bathtub).

Source: P.G.H.Evans (1987) The Natural History of Whales and Dolphins. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.

 


How do dolphins get their water?

Most dolphins live in the ocean and the ocean water is too salty for them to drink. If they would drink sea water, they would actually use more water trying to get rid of the salt than they drank in the first place. Most of their water they get from their food (fish and squid). Also, when they metabolise (burn) their fat, water is released in the process. Their kidneys are also adapted to retaining as much water as possible. Although they live in water, they have live as desert animals, since they have no direct source of drinkable water.

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