Fish or Fruits: Are Dolphins Carnivores?

are dolphins carnivores

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Dolphins are renowned for their playful and curious nature and for being some of the smartest animals on earth.

They have HUGE brains and are complex or problem-solving, complex communication, and even pass the self-aware test.

With 42 different species, dolphins vary in size, behavior, and diet depending on their geographical location and prey availability.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the dolphin’s diet and specifically answer one of the more common questions surrounding the topic. Are dolphins carnivorous?

So if you’ve ever wondered what dolphins eat and if they prefer fish over fruit, stick around as you’re in the right place!

Let’s get to it…

Are Dolphins Carnivores?

Yes, dolphins are carnivores. These ariel acrobats have a varied diet consisting of other marine animals for food.

Dolphins are predators that often live together in groups, also known as pods, which can be up to 100 individuals strong.

These highly intelligent animals work together to catch their prey, using varied techniques depending on the species.

are dolphins carnivorous
Photo by redcharlie | @redcharlie1

One technique that many dolphins use is herding. This involves swimming around the fish and herding them together into a tight ball.

Then each dolphin takes its turn to rush through the ball, grabbing as many fish as it can before joining the back of the queue to do it again.

What Do Dolphins Eat?

Dolphins are strictly carnivorous animals that feed on a diet consisting mainly of fish, squid, and crustaceans.

The exact makeup of their diet varies depending on the species and its geographical location.

For example, dolphins that live offshore typically feed on larger fish species such as tuna and mackerel, whereas coastal dolphins feed on smaller fish, including mullet and herring.

Some larger species of dolphins such as the orcas are apex predators that feed on just about anything with a pulse.

Orcas will eat seals, whales, penguins, and many other marine mammals, taking down prey that’s much larger than themselves.

In some areas where prey is scarce, orcas have even been known to prey on moose, ambushing them when they hop from island to island to graze on fresh grass.

They are highly versatile predators that will switch up their diet depending on what is available at the time.

Orcas are known to feed on over 140+ different prey species, so they’re not particularly fussy eaters.

Dolphins are remarkable hunters thanks to their large brains and intelligence, they use many different strategies to catch prey that are rarely seen in the animal kingdom.

From herding fish into tight groups to using echolocation to locate fish in murky waters, dolphins are perfectly adapted to hunting in any marine habitat.

In some areas of the world, dolphins even cooperate with humans to help catch fish in exchange for a fish-based commission.

It’s a partnership that benefits both humans and dolphins, with humans being able to catch the fish and dolphins being fed as a result.

This type of relationship is only possible due to the dolphin’s intelligence and building trust with the locals over long periods of time.

Are All Dolphins Carnivores?

Yes, all species of dolphin are carnivorous, which means they all eat meat that often comes from eating other animals.

Most species of dolphin feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans, whilst other larger species such as orcas feed mostly on marine mammals and larger prey.

Dolphins have also been observed eating other animals such as octopuses, jellyfish, and shrimp.

There are 38 species of dolphin that live in the ocean, with 4 species of river dolphin that live in freshwater.

These dolphins use their long snouts to find food along the river bottom, and their fang-like teeth help them to scoop up crabs, clams, fish, and shrimp.

More On Dolphins Diets

Dolphins are opportunistic predators that will change their diets depending on their location, prey availability, and season.

They are truly fascinating animals that are able to change their diet depending on what’s available to them.

Whilst their diet primarily consists of fish and squid, some dolphins have been observed eating turtles, small sharks, and even seabirds.

are dolphins carnivorous
Photo by Hanson Lu

They play an important role in marine ecosystems by keeping fish populations under control, and if the fish that dolphins feed on become scarce, this can have an impact on the ecosystem at large.

As a whole, the diet of dolphins is a diverse one that depends on a number of factors, but as top predators in the food chain, they play an important role in all marine ecosystems by controlling populations of prey.

Wrapping Up

To close, YES, dolphins are carnivores. They feed primarily on fish, squid, and crustaceans but have been observed feeding on many other marine animals too.

Dolphins are predatory cetaceans that play an important role in their ecosystem by controlling fish populations and not allowing sick or diseased animals to run rampant.

Some larger species of dolphins such as orcas are known to feed on much larger animals, including whales, other dolphins, seals, and more.

Hopefully, this post has helped provide insight into the diet of dolphins and you now understand why all dolphins are carnivorous.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!