Is it a porpoise, or is it a dolphin?

When we take family and friends out on the gulf waters of Southwest Florida we often see dolphins. Some ask however, is it a dolphin or a porpoise and is there really a difference? Lets take look at this question to not only identify, but also to give you some really cool information about these amazing mammals that call the Florida gulf waters home!


What does a dolphin look like?

Both names generally refer to the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops Truncates) here in Florida. Scientifically dolphins and porpoises are different mammals with the latter not commonly found in Florida. Of course if you call a dolphin a porpoise, we all know what you are talking about. Dolphins are a light blue-grey color with a lighter underside almost white. A mature dolphin will generally be between 6 and 10 feet in length and will eat more than 20 pounds of mullet, sheepshead, pinfish, flounder and marine invertebrates each day.


Are dolphins smart?

Some believe that dolphins are some of the smartest animals on earth. Even though they have no sense of smell, their other senses make up for it. They have incredible eyesight an the ability to navigate using echolocation which functions very similar to sonar of a submarine. In addition its been observed that dolphins can communicate with other dolphins within a complex and intricate social group. These groups usually contain 10 or more individuals. Dolphins are often heard clicking which is the sonar system dolphins use for navigation, food-finding and avoidance of predators. They have variety of sounds including the whistle we associate with them the most.


Can I touch the dolphins and feed them?

It is against federal law to feed or harass wild dolphins. Swimming with or feeding dolphins can be dangerous for both human and dolphin and should not be attempted. The NOAA Fisheries Service warns that disruption of normal behavior and activities can ultimately harm these mammals. Human/dolphin swim with and feeding interactions increases their risk of injury from boats, increases the incidents of entanglement in fishing gear to the point of being a nuisance to anglers, decreases their willingness to forage for food and may cause habituated behaviors to be passed on to calves and other dolphins. Inappropriate non-food items, contaminated food and food meant for human consumption can jeopardize the health of this species. Dolphin are also known to become aggressive to humans when seeking food or defending their territories in areas where feeding or swimming practices occur.