OK, I’m tossing you a softball here.  Who out there remembers Flipper?  Who’s been to Sea World?  Does anyone not love the bottlenose dolphin?


When people say ‘dolphin’ this is the animal most of us immediately see in out head, but the bottlenose dolphin is only one of almost 40 species within the family Delphinidae.  The Delphinid family also includes killer whales, Pacific whitesided dolphins, and spinner dolphins.

The bottlenose dolphin is the one we pet and feed at Sea World, the one who does the bulk of performing in dolphin shows and in the movies.  Lots and lots of lore and legends surround the dolphin, going back to ancient times.  In Greek mythology the dolphin is linked to the god Apollo, and his temple at Delphi, but also Dionysus, god of wine and revelry.  Maybe that’s why dolphins are always smiling and look like they’re having so much fun?  The Greek myth of Arion tells of dolphins rescuing this famous singer from drowning.  You can read about this legend and more here.

Today, dolphins have a reputation for being intelligent.  New Agers claim they are smarter than us and here to help the us and the planet.  You can find dolphin swim programs all around, just Google it.  Wherever there is warm water and tropical resorts, you are likely to find companies that either have dolphins on site or will take you out to them in their native habitat so you can swim with dolphins.

Who’s in?  I know I would be the first to jump in and play.  One of the most enduring legends about dolphins is their capacity to play and make friends.  I think these two short videos say it all.

Doesn’t that look like fun?  This one though, always warms my heart.

But how smart are dolphins, really?  If you measure it by the things dolphins have made, then not very bright at all.  However, put a human and a dolphin in murky water and ask them to find objects on the bottom or even floating around and the human will look like a floundering idiot.  Current research shows that dolphins give themselves names, called signature whistles, that they develop when they are infants.  Dolphins will use these to get the attention of other dolphins in their social group, or to find each other in murky waters.  Is this language?  Research done by Louis Herman in Hawaii shows that dolphins do possess the ability to understand word order, as shown in this really cool video.

Let’s see…swim and play all day with your best buddies?  Yeah, next life I think I want to be a dolphin.  What would you be if you could choose?


17 Responses

  1. I am forever forbidden to play with the dolphins…or so my husband says. It all started when he was fishing and I was along for the boredom. As he gleefully tossed his line out into the ocean, I noticed a little family of dolphins not too far away. I decided to try to play with them so I went to the bait bucket and fished out a couple of the dead ones. I put my hand with the bait out over the boat on the side and used my other hand to splash 3 times. I had seen this done many times at Sea World. It worked! They came over and gingerly lifted their noses up to get the bait. I was having a blast!.Then, this big two-story boat with the name “Dolphin Watch” came floating by. It was a boat that took tourists out to watch the dolphins and there were people on both floors all watching me feed the dolphins and taking pictures. Wow…I was putting on a show! Suddenly, my husband caught a huge fish. The daddy dolphin disappeared and swam over to my husband’s fish and grabbed hold of it. Now, it looked like my husband had the dolphin hooked but the reality was that the dolphin had firmly attached himself onto the fish. He swam laps around the boat, jumping up and down, singing in Dolphin while the entire population of people on the boat yelled at my husband. “Let him go…Let him go!” Eventually, the dolphin dropped the fish and all the people on the boat cheered. My husband reeled in his fish. It was all mauled up and he was furious. Daddy Dolphin waited patiently. When my husband threw the fish away, the dolphin scooped it up, delighted. So, as my husband put it, this wasn’t Yogi’s first picnic, Ranger Sir. I thought I was training the dolphin, but he was just biding his time waiting for the inevitable to happen. So, that is why I am banned from playing with the dolphins forever.

  2. I LOVED Flipper. The boy was cute, too, but I don’t remember his name. We’re going back 40 some years here. I’ll swim with the dolphins with you, Serena. I’ve always wanted to do that!

  3. I have always loved dolphins and would love to go play with them – in fact it’s on my bucket list. So far, though, I’ve only been fairly close to them at the Mirage in Vegas. We went to the show they put on and I was fascinated. Afterwards, we walked down through the tunnel that lets you view them underwater. While I was watching, one of the dolphins came right up next to the window and looked directly at me. The intelligence and warmth in their eyes is startling, and I found myself wondering who was watching whom. My husband finally had to come and get me or I’d probably have stood there for hours.

  4. “They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, No-one you see, is smarter than he,
    And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder, Flying there-under, under the sea!”

    Yes, I remember Flipper Serena. I love that show. And dophins are super cool. I’d love to swim with them. I love your background in marine mammels girl. 🙂

  5. Dolphins are so cool. I vaguely recall Flipper. I watched the show, but it was so long ago. The videos were great. I especially loved the one with the cat. That says something special about the way the species relate. I have had the opportunity to go swimming with dolphins twice and both times it has been a delight. When they pull you through the water it is something else. They are powerful, so is the water pushing against you.

    1. Fun! They really are amazing creatures. I remember when I worked at Sea World we weren’t allowed to say anything about dolphin, or killer whale, intelligence. Hearing the trainers and people who actually worked with these animals though often told a very different story. I don’t like to publish those accounts since I only heard things second hand, but man the things they’d say!

  6. I did the dolphin swim thing once. And yes, who doesn’t love dolphins! I didn’t know there were so many species of them, however.

    But if I were to come back as an animal, it would be a cute Rottweiler puppy, with a family who are suckers like mine!

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