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Dolphin facts for kids from Little Passports

35 Dolphin Facts for Kids

Dolphin facts can help kids tap into a long human tradition. Ancient artists and storytellers in Egypt, Greece, Rome, New Zealand (called Aotearoa by the Maori who first settled there), and China all featured dolphins in their work. Dolphins have been revered as supernatural messengers, treated as guardians of goddesses or reincarnated princesses, cast as the stars of movies and television shows, and studied by scientists. What are some dolphin facts for kids? Read on to find out.

What Do Dolphins Eat?

A dolphin about to eat a fish in the ocean

Dolphins eat the meat of animals they find in the water. Often that means fish, but dolphins also eat jellyfish, squid, shrimp, and more. Like humans, dolphins are adaptable eaters—they may have a favorite food, but they’ll change up their diet depending on what’s around them. 

Dolphins find food to eat by hunting, often working together in pods to trap or confuse their prey and make it easier to catch. Bottlenose dolphins have a dazzling array of feeding techniques, from flipping fish into the air with their tails to using sponges (the sea creature, not the kitchen tool) to shield their noses while digging in the sand. Dolphins are social animals, and some of their feeding techniques are passed from generation to generation. The sponge trick, for instance, is only used by one group of dolphins in Australia!

Child playing with Little Passports' Animals Wild subscription

Dolphin Teeth

Dolphin teeth photographed close-up

Dolphin teeth help distinguish dolphins from other creatures of the sea. All dolphins have teeth, although how many they have varies a lot between species. 

Some dolphins have over 100 teeth, but they don’t typically use them to chew! Instead, they grab their food with them. Dolphins often eat prey whole, but they sometimes rub large fish or octopuses against the bottom of the sea to break them into smaller pieces. 

Like humans, dolphins are born with their teeth still in their gums, and their teeth start to poke through as they get older.

How Do Dolphins Sleep?

Dolphin asleep at the water's surface

Dolphins have different kinds of sleep, just like humans. Sometimes they sleep lightly, and sometimes they go into deeper sleep. During lighter sleep, dolphins often keep right on swimming. But when they really need to rest, dolphins sleep like a log, floating a little below the surface and occasionally drifting up to take a breath through their blowhole.

Dolphins also sometimes sleep with one eye open—literally! Some dolphins put only half their brains to sleep at a time, using the other half to stay alert for danger.

Are Dolphins Mammals?

Adult dolphin swimming with baby

Dolphins are classified as mammals by scientists. They regulate the temperature inside their bodies, they have lungs and breathe air, and their babies are born live. They even have very fine hair on their bodies when they’re born! (The baby hair falls out and doesn’t grow back.) Most importantly, dolphin babies drink milk, which all mammals do as infants.

Are Orcas Dolphins?

Photo of an orca with its mouth open, showing similarity to dolphins

Yes! Orcas have been known for centuries as “killer whales” because of their ferocious hunting, but they’re actually dolphins. Although they (and other dolphins) are related to whales, orcas’ streamlined bodies, round heads, and beaks have more in common with dolphins. Most importantly, orcas have a “melon,” a big, fatty bump on their forehead that lets them track prey via echolocation. Only dolphins have melons!