Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dolphins of Florida

Florida dolphin helping the U.S. military.

I have just recently seen the film, Dolphin Tale, and I highly recommend it to people of all ages.  It is truly an inspiring story of a dolphin named Winter, who is found injured and caught in a fisherman's trap and rope on a Clearwater, Florida beach by a young boy.  Winter, the dolphin, is so seriously injured that her tail has to be amputated to save her life.  She is coaxed back to life by the boy who found her and they have a special bond and connection and they become "family forever."

This is a heartwarming story of a boy who is struggling in school and life and becomes completely engaged in helping this dolphin to live.  One of its many themes is that the disabled dolphin can also inspire and bring comfort to those humans who are disabled and missing a body part as well. 

We witness in the movie the intelligence of dolphins as Winter "talks" to and communicates with her rescuer, the boy, by the clicking and whistling sounds she makes.  We also see the playful attitudes of dolphins as we watch Winter and the boy frolic and swim in the pool at the marine biology rescue station and hospital.

This is a heartwarming story on many levels as we watch the boy's cousin, injured in the Middle East war, slowly identify with the tailless dolphin.  As prosthetic limbs are made for our soldiers, so is a prosthetic tail made for Winter.  She can finally swim without injuring her spine with the new prosthetic tail made for her.

We are "family forever" with all those injured and "repaired" as well as with Winter the "repaired" dolphin.  We are all in this life and on this planet together, even with the injured animals around us.

See Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail,at the Clearwater Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida or view her on her web-site:

Florida Dolphins

Dolphins are marine mammals closely related to whales and porpoises, and they are found worldwide in the shallow seas of the continental shelves.  They are carnivores and eat mostly squid or other fish.  They belong to the Delphinidae Family and are the largest beings in the cetaceans order.  They are found in abundance in the Gulf of Mexico here in Florida.

Dolphins have a streamlined fusiform body, adapted for fast swimming.  They have a tail fin, called the fluke, and it is used to propel them through the water.  Their pectoral fins, along with the tail, are used to control their direction.  The dorial fin provides stability for the dolphin while swimming.

The head of the dolphin contains a melon, a round organ used for echolocation, which is a sonar sound system the dolphins have for locating food and navigating when submerged in the water.  They breathe through a blowhole on top of their head.  And, their brains are large and highly complex.

Both in and out of water, dolphins have acute eyesight.  They have extraordinary hearing and can hear frequencies ten times or more than adult human hearing.  Surprisingly, most of their hearing is done with their lower jaw.  The jaw is used to conduct sound to the middle ear via a fat-filled cavity in the lower jaw bone.  And, the dophins' teeth act as an antennae to receive incoming sound and pinpoint exact location of an object.

Dolphins are very social and live in pods up to a dozen individual dolphins.  They can temporarily merge into superpods of 1000 or more when swimming in the Gulf.   Dolphins are capable of establishing very strong social bonds and will stay with injured dolphins or ill individuals, helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface of the water if needed.  They will protect human swimmers from sharks by swimming circles around the swimmers and they will charge sharks to shoo them away  from swimmers.

They are the most intelligent of animals  with a friendly appearance and their playful attitude has made them popular to humans.  They are capable of making a broad range of sounds when communicating with each other or humans:

  • frequency-modulated whistles
  • burst-pulsed sounds
  • clicks that are directional and for echolocation

Dolphins will occasionally leap above the water surface and perform acrobatic flips and twists  Play is an important part of their culture, they enjoy riding the waves, and the will playfully interact with human swimmers.

One of our friends of the sea, dolphins are enchanting and entertaining.  They will perform great leaps and jumps to entertain those watching from the beach.  They are one of the most athletic fish in the sea and their intelligence has amazed scientists and researchers for years.  They are capable of close bonds with humans and we have used them to help the U.S. military and fisherman at sea.