Wild Fact #960 – Swimming with the Dolphins


On this wonderful Friday we are going to go on a pretend trip to Marine Land!  YAY!  Okay, everyone pile in the car and let’s go! If anyone asks “Are We There Yet”, so help me, I will turn this car around! So now that we arrived and are walking over to the large pool that has a dolphin bouncing a ball on its nose it is time to start asking some questions! No, not why is the dolphin bouncing a ball on his nose.  I want to know how a warm blooded animal such as a dolphin can survive in the freezing cold ocean.  Remember, the dolphin is a mammal so this would be equivalent to us living in the frigid ocean waters.

Anybody want to venture a guess on how the dolphins manage to keep their core temperature around 37 degrees Celsius.  I am expecting the trouble maker in the back to blurt out “Because they wear a winter jacket and snowpants”.  As much as I would like to send that kid to the principal’s office, he isn’t entirely wrong! No, of course they don’t literally wear winter clothing but they do have a layer of fat called blubber that acts like a winter coat.  The dolphin puts most of its fat reserves into this thick layer of fat just below the skin. Obviously this acts as insulation.

Blubber is not the only adaptation that dolphins have evolved to living in the cold depths of the ocean.  The shape of the body and the reduced limb size helps decrease the amount of surface area actually exposed to the harsh temperatures.  As well, dolphins living off the coast in the really deep and cold waters have even larger bodies and smaller flippers. This helps the dolphin conserve body heat.  I wish I had smaller arms and legs when I woke up and it was -15 degrees the other day! Another adaptation has to do with the circulatory system of the dolphin.  When a dolphin dives the blood is shunted away from the surface of the body thus their heat is not being lost to the deeper, colder depths of the ocean.

Time to get to the last two adaptations that allow the dolphin to keep warm on those cold watery nights.  They have developed a faster metabolism then other land mammals. This increased metabolic rate helps generate heat for the little fun loving dolphin.  Finally, when land mammals exhale they lose body heat.  The dolphin is lucky enough that it doesn’t have to exhale as much as their land counterparts, thus conserving heat.  All right, that should shed some light on how dolphins stay warm.  Now I have this sudden desire to go and watch Flipper, weird!

Have a great weekend!

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