Dolphins - threats; problem-solving, etc.

From: Dagmar Fertl (
Date: Wed Nov 01 2000 - 09:50:53 EST

I am doing an interview for my biology class and I was wondering if you
could answer a few questions regarding dolphins for me. I need to turn in a
full page of my questions and someone's answers to the questions. I have
e-mailed many biologists who all replied that my questions were not in their
"area of expertise". My typed interview was due yesterday and no one has
answered my questions yet. Please help. If you cannot, and you know someone
who might be able to answer my questions, (and add anything else they think
might be helpful to me for my final research paper on dolphins) would you
recommend him or her to me?

Thank you.

#1: What do you think is the largest threat to dolphins today?
(pollution, unusual water temperatures, fishing...)

#2: Are dolphins are capable of problem-solving, developing an idea,
sustaining interest, etc.?

#3: How many dolphins are taken into captivity or die each year?

#4: Do dolphins each have their own signature whistle, like a name?
Are they communicating with one another when they mimik eachother's
whistles,or are they just playing a game?

#5 How many different species of dolphins are there?

#6 How are dolphins like humans?
1. I think it's hard to pin down any one human activity that is affecting
all dolphins equally. I would say that pollution and fisheries impacts are
the greatest threats. Studies have been linking pollutants to weakening of
immune systems, making animals more susceptible to disease; reproductive
disorders, etc. The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission sponsored a workshop on
this topic and further information on this topic may be gotten from them.

Fisheries impact dolphins in a variety of ways. Dolphins may be caught in
fishing gear and be injured or die as a result. Fishing activities often
compete with dolphins for the same food.

2. I would certainly say that dolphins are capable of problem-solving.
Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory with the University of Hawaii is a
facility that is studying that particular topic as one of many topics.
Another facility doing this is Epcot in Florida. Dolphins are certainly
inventive animals, coming up with solutions to a variety of 'problems'.

3. I'm not sure of the exact number of dolphins being brought into captivity
each year off the top of my head. That is certainly a number that the Humane
Society of the United States could help you with. I can tell you that at
this particular time, no dolphins are caught in U.S. waters for captivity.

4. It is generally accepted that dolphins use signature whistles. Each
dolphin in a group produces an individual whistle contour so distinct that
each animal can be identified from the whistle contour. The whistle may
serve to broadcast the identity of the animal producing the whistle and
possibly to communicate such information as fear. Dolphins often whistle
when separated from other group members or in response to the whistles of
group members. It should be noted that there are scientists that feel that
this hypothesis needs to be reevaluated.

5. There are 33 species in the family Delphinidae - the ocean dolphin family
and 5 river dolphin species. The killer whale is the largest dolphin

6. I would say that dolphins are like humans in that we are both
large-brained social animals. We also both are capable of using tools. We
also both understand the components of language - syntax and semantics.
Dolphins, like humans, also have demonstrated self-awareness.

Good luck on the paper. This was a quick response since you're already late
with the assignment.

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