2. Apr, 2016

The Dolphin, marvel of the sea

Dolphin is probably  derived from the Greek where δελφύς (delphus) means  "womb". So the Greeks saw the dolphin as a creature from the sea with a womb. Dolphins are nearest to human in encephalization, a kind of index used by behavioral  biologists  to compare intelligence across different species of mammals. Meaning  that of al mammals. including the chimpanzee  the  brain size of dolphins  corrected for body mass is nearest to that of Homo sapiens.

The most common species of dolphins are the spinner dolphin ( Stenella longirostris)  and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops),  often hold in captivity  to amuse the public.  The  spinner dolphin with its pointed snout  is  found in off-shore tropical waters around the world. It is famous for its acrobatic displays in which it spins along its longitudinal axis as it leaps through the air. The bottlenose is bigger and more common, an often swims in small groups or pods that can mix with other pods.  Other species are the  common dolphin (with two subspecies,  Delphinus capensis  and Delphinus delphis)  the striped dolphin  (Stenella coeruleoalba) and the  spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata).

Dolphins  are smart in locating  their prey  with their echolocation system. When a school of fish like sardines is located, they  trap them and take turns swimming through the school and just gulp away. Places in the Red Sea  were underwater photographers have a good chance of  meeting dolphins are Eilat in Israel, Samadai Reef  and the Sataya lagoon, not so far  from Marsa Alam in the southern Red Sea. Unfortunately, the boats that line up in Sataya and their  numerous visitors  may spoil the opportunity to get really close to the dolphin pods, often consisting of spinner dolphins.

 Dolphins  have stimulated human fantasy and need for symbolism since ancient times. There are often  described as a mystical  creatures that combine two worlds, that of man and fish, somewhat like  mermaids. The goddess  Aphrodite is often depicted with dolphins,  riding or being accompanied by them. Dolphins  were also messengers of  Poseidon the mighty god of the Sea, bringing him  lovely  nymphs to inspect. And they were seen  as rescuers of humans. Old Roman mosaics  often show dolphins, either in  isolation or with gods riding them (see my picture  of a  mosaic taken In Ostia Antiqua  in Rome).

Sadly, in some places of the world like the Faroe islands and Japan dolphins are still hunted down and killed by for human consumption. Which is almost like cannibalism. A cruel and frequently  criticized method is drive fishing, a merciless  method of driving dolphins together with boats into a bay or onto a beach and then slaughter  them down. You can witness that in the dreadful documentary The Cove.