Freshwater/Salt Water Adaptations

From: Pieter Arend Folkens (
Date: Sun Oct 15 2000 - 03:34:15 EDT

>I am writing to find out how some dolphins are able to live in seas and
>ponds, >and do not require the salt water of the oceans? I assume it has
>something to >do with adaptations, but I do not know specifics.

There are oceanic dolphins (salt water), estuarine dolphins (salt to
brackish and sometimes into fresh water), and river dolphins (freshwater
only). Ocean dolphins can survive in fresh water for a while, as can river
dolphins in sea water, but not for too long. The nature of the water and
the animal's skin are adapted to be in balance. If dolphins are put into
water uncommon to the particular species, the skin will become diseased.
This was observed when the humpback whale known as Humphrey ventured way up
the Sacramento River as far as Rio Vista a number of years ago.

I am not on top of the area of dolphin dermatology, but I suspect a marine
mammal vet would have more detailed information of the physiology of
dolphin skin. I suggest you write the head vet at Sea World, San Diego,
California, for more information. They have a very friendly animal care


Pieter Folkens

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