Virginia Beach is For Dolphins!
Natural History of Dolphins
Virginia Beach is all about dolphins. There is nothing quite like catching a school of dolphin heading up and down the shores of Virginia Beach. Let's learn more about them:
Marine Mammals Have Certain Things in Common
In the animal kingdom there are many different groups or "classes" such as birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. All mammals have five characteristics in common though:
- Breath air
- Give birth to live young
- Born with hair
- Nurse their young
Dolphins are one of many marine mammals that inhabit the sea, others being sea lions,whales,otters and manatees to name a few. All the whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the order called Cetacea, which can be further divided into three smaller or suborders. The Archeocetes were the ancient whales and are now extinct. The second group, the Mysticetes, include, among others, the gigantic blue, grey and humpback whales. Members of this suborder have two blowholes and instead of teeth, have a series of comb-like plates called baleen which they use to strain plankton and shrimp from the water as a source for food.
The largest suborder is the Odontocetes, also known as the toothed whales which includes groups such as the sperm whales, dolphins and belugas. The number of teeth may vary with the species, but all use their teeth for catching, not chewing, their food.
Though many people often confuse the two, dolphins and porpoises are different families of toothed whales. Divided into six different species, porpoises are generally smaller than dolphins, darker in color, and found in deeper and cooler waters. Porpoises usually lack the rostrum or "bottlenose" that most dolphins have. Another distinct trait of porpoises is their teeth: they have flat, spade-shaped teeth versus the conical-shaped teeth of dolphins.
Did you know that there are about thirty species of dolphins found in our oceans? A few being the white-sided, spotted and bottlenose dolphin. It is the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, that is most well known. These are the ones we see going up and down the beaches in Virginia Beach. In the mornings the surfers and beach goers get some of the best free dolphin watching available anywhere. These animals tend to live in the shallow waters in which people frequently choose to swim and boat . This species of dolphin also does very well under human care and are usually your marine park performers.