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Question:
What character traits make a killer whale a dolphin? Who thought of the name dolphin? How can you tell female and male dolphins apart? In what ways have dolphins helped people? What can we do in the future with dolphins and their language? Can anyone tell me how to contact a dolphins research center in Florida?
Thanks.



Replies:
Whew! Quite a list of questions!!
1. Killer whales are in the family DELPHINIDAE, (order Odontoceti -- or "toothed whales"), or the "Dolphins", and they are classified like this because of many body features:
-many teeth , in BOTH jaw up to 260!
-skull bones characteristic of group
-rostrum as long or longer than cranial portion of jaw
-2 anterior vertebrae are fused together
-ribs are characteristic of group
-dorsal fin
-presence of tail at junction of flukes
-anterior limbs (or flippers) are sickle-shaped

2. I don't know who named "dolphins", but its probably a derivative of the family name "DELPHINIDAE".

3. Males and females can be told apart by examination of the slits they have on their bellies. In females, the genital and anal slits are much closer together than in males, and small mammary slits are usually visible as well on either side of the genital slit.

4. There are many stories of dolphins helping people stay afloat when exhausted and stranded at sea from plane or boat disasters, and one explanation for this behavior can be observed when dolphins give birth, one of the first things they do is to gently nudge their babies to the surface to breathe. If the baby is sick or cant swim on its own, the adult does this as well. This may be an "instinct" for dolphins, to aid their young, or, it may just be another sign of intelligence.

5. For some information on dolphin communication and their language, please refer to the Biology Archive of Questions and answers in "Ask A Scientist".

6. Dolphin Research Center (in Florida): P.O. Box Dolphin MM 59 Grassy Key Marathon Shores, FL 33052

Phone # 305-289-0002

Thanks for all the great questions on dolphins!!

Tom F Ihde



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