Dolphins are found all over the world in a wide variety of habitats including harbors, coastal waters, deep waters, and more.
With over 40 different species of dolphin, they can come in all shapes and sizes. From the incredibly rare and small hector dolphin to the apex predator of the ocean, the Orca.
Dolphins are well known for their supreme intelligence, playful behavior, and incredible agility in the water.
But what about on land? Can dolphins survive on land?
In short, no, dolphins have evolved for life in the water and therefore can not survive on land for any longer than a few short hours.
Can A Dolphin Actually Survive On Land?
Whilst dolphins may be able to survive on land for a short period of time, they certainly can not survive on land for very long.
There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that dolphins feed on fish, squids, crustaceans, and shrimp; all of which are found in the ocean.
If dolphins did make it onto dry land, they wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves and find the type of food they require for survival.
Not only that but even if they did manage to somehow find food on land it’s likely that their bodies would not be able to digest it properly which would leave the dolphin malnourished.
Dolphins have evolved over millions of years to thrive in the ocean, which is why they have tail flukes that help them propel themselves through the water.
On land, a dolphin’s fluke would not be of much use, and the dolphin would have very little mobility and likely end up stuck.
This happens regularly all across the world where dolphins end up beached on the sand as they are washed up ashore.
This can be a real-life or death situation for a dolphin as they need to stay hydrated to survive.
Reason Why Dolphins Can Not Survive Out Of Water
Whilst it would be pretty cool to see a dolphin walking across the street, it’s a scenario that would never happen, aside from in fiction.
There are many reasons why dolphins are simply unable to survive on land, below I’ve listed a few.
- Lack of food
- Breathing difficulties
- Unable to regulate body temperature
How Long Can A Dolphin Survive On Land?
Dolphins are marine mammals that rely on water for their survival, but a dolphin can survive on land for a few hours providing it is kept wet and cool.
One of the biggest threats to survival for dolphins whilst on land is the inability to regulate their body temperature.
As these sophisticated animals do not have sweat glands, they regulate their body temperature through thermoregulation.
They rely on their environment to help regulate their body temperature, therefore when on land their inability to do this can be life-threatening.
What Happens If A Dolphin Goes On Land?
Whilst dolphins are marine mammals that breathe the same air as you and I, they are simply unable to survive on land for extended periods.
If a dolphin finds itself beached on the sand, very quickly it will start to become dehydrated, especially in warmer climates.
After a couple of minutes of being stranded on land, the dolphin will start to experience difficulty breathing due to gravity.
Whilst swimming in the water, dolphins do not have to worry about their weight as they are provided with buoyancy, but once on land gravity takes effect and can interrupt their breathing pattern.
At this point, they will start to experience hunger, and starvation will begin to set in. Not only that, but skin problems can start to arise.
All of this combined can make the dolphin disorientated and the dolphin may die due to collapsing under its own weight, starvation, overheating, dehydration, or drowning once the tide comes in and covers its blowhole.
Why Do Dolphins Go Onto Land?
Being stranded on land is a nightmare situation for dolphins, but it’s a reality that can happen often in a number of scenarios.
One of which is that old, sick, or injured dolphins may find themselves being washed up ashore with a strong current.
Dolphins can even find themselves being beached whilst chasing other dolphins. Sometimes smaller more agile dolphins will swim close to the shoreline and larger dolphins will get stuck.
Another reason dolphins could end up on land is whilst feeding (on purpose). These intelligent animals use a variety of hunting techniques to hunt and catch fish.
They will work together to corner a school of fish near the shore, and sometimes the fish will beach themselves in a final attempt to escape the dolphins.
Once beached, the dolphins will swoop in and gobble up the fish, but may also find themselves getting stuck in the process.
So, can dolphins survive on land? No, they most certainly can not. Whilst they could survive for a couple of hours providing they are wet, they would very soon die due to a variety of factors.
Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals in our ocean, sadly intelligence does not allow for marine mammals to survive easily on land.
These animals have evolved over millions of years to adapt to marine life, which is why they do not have limbs that would enable them to walk on land.
Being on land can become deadly fast for dolphins and whales, they’re simply not suited to being there and quickly find themselves becoming dehydrated and immobile.
Once this sets in, the baking sun can also cause them to overheat, which can rapidly deteriorate their bodies.
Hopefully, you now have a clear answer as to why dolphins are unable to survive on land and have learned something new today about these stunning creatures.
Feel free to stay a while and learn more about dolphins, whales, and the many other types of marine life that we discuss here.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.