Dolphins vs. Whales & Porpoises
The Ocean Environment
External Features
Ventral Features & Male Vs. Female
Fin Structure & Function
Brain & Intelligence
Blowhole & Breathing
Mouth & Teeth
Pregnancy & Birth
Mother & Calf
Jumping & Synchronous Behavior
Behavior In The Water
Bubble Rings
Socialization Behavior
Health Assessment
Dolphins In Captivity
The Captive Habitat
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A dolphin, being a mammal, is warm-blooded. It requires a constant body temperature of 96.8 - 98.6 degrees F, almost the same as ours. Because the dolphin's metabolism is higher than that of land mammals of similar size, it generates a great deal of heat. In addition, dolphins breathe less frequently than most land mammals so less heat is lost by exhaling into the environment.

This heat production must be regulated to keep the animal from over-heating. It can “thermo-regulate”, or control its body temperature in the following ways: (1) blubber insulates the body against temperature changes, (2) the dorsal fin and flukes release excess heat from the body, (3) during dives, blood circulation is reduced at the outer portions of the body and concentrated into the animal's core organs and tissues, (4) body heat is conserved by transferring it from one blood vessel to another during circulation instead of being released to the environment, and (5) it can move to cooler or warmer areas within its aquatic environment.

As has been mentioned earlier, calves are not able to fully thermo-regulate until about three years of age. In addition, calves do not proportionally increase blubber thickness in colder environments as do adult dolphins. This is likely due to the fact that a disproportionate increase in blubber thickness in calves would make the animal more buoyant than practical and the calf would be presented with the difficulty of battling the tendency to float. Blubber is highly vascularized (filled with blood vessels) which provides it with the ability to keep itself warm by circulating vast amounts of warm blood to its body surface. There appears to be an upper limit to the blubber thickness-to-body-size ratio set by the locomotor costs associated with a dolphin's need to overcome buoyancy (recent research from the University of California Santa Cruz, 2002). This may help to explain how female dolphins respond to their calves' thermo-regulation handicap and why lactating females show a preference for shallow (warmer) ocean waters for nursing their calves.

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Understanddolphins.com contains information condensed from a number of reputable technical sources, peer reviewed journal articles, and respected dolphin research facilities, as well as from my personal experiences and observations as a dolphin VIP Tour Guide and Educator.
I have made every attempt to support the information presented in this site with video and still photographic images. On a regular basis I plan to produce more of these images and will continue to update the site with these as well as with any new and scientifically verified information which becomes available.

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