Shedd Aquarium Shares 15 Fun Facts in Celebration of Dolphin Awareness Month

Shedd Highlights Knowledge Gained Through Caring for Pacific White-Sided Dolphins 

In honor of Dolphin Awareness Month, Shedd Aquarium is celebrating the dolphins that call Shedd home. Approximately two million people visit Shedd each year and have the rare opportunity to experience and connect with Pacific white-sided dolphins. To celebrate this playful, acrobatic, intelligent species for Dolphin Awareness Month in March, Shedd is sharing 15 fun facts about what we have learned from providing them world-class care!

These fun facts range from average size of Pacific white-sided dolphins to their natural habitat to how they communicate with one another. Since Pacific white-sided dolphins are extremely difficult to study in the wild, Shedd provides critical knowledge about this little understood species. There’s something new for every reader to learn!

1. There are more than 30 different species of dolphins worldwide and Shedd Aquarium is home to Pacific white-sided dolphins, a rarely studied open-water species.

2. Pacific white-sided dolphins are nicknamed “Lags” after their unwieldy scientific name, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens.

3. Pacific white-sided dolphins are distinguished by their black backs, gray sides, white bellies and a suspender-like stripe runs down each side. 

4. Shedd Aquarium’s success with Pacific white-sided dolphin births is providing invaluable information on optimal husbandry and maternal care that is being applied worldwide. There are seven critical development milestones calves must reach in their first 12 months including birth, taking their first breath, bonding with mom, nursing, growing, discovering fish and weaning.

5. Dolphin milk has fat content close to half-and-half: between 10 and 20 percent.

6. Pacific white-sided dolphins grow up to be 6 to 7 feet long as adults, and weigh between 220 to 300 pounds or upwards of 400 pounds for large males.

7. Eastern Pacific dolphin populations appear to follow a migratory pattern, being the most abundant in the Southern California Bight during the winter and spending summers further north.

8. At Shedd Aquarium, dolphins receive optimal nutrition including a diet of fresh, sustainable restaurant-quality seafood including herring, capelin and squid. Adult dolphins eat about 25 to 30 pounds of food each day.

9. Although dolphins lack vocal chords, they create underwater vocalizations sounding like clicks or creaking doors. Volume and frequency can vary when dolphins are producing vocalizations, even at considerable depths.

10. Staying true to their name, Pacific white-sided dolphins inhabit the cool temperature waters of the north Pacific, ranging from the South China Sea and the Baja California Peninsula to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea.

11. The names of Shedd’s Pacific white-sided dolphins are Tlingit, the endangered language of the First Nations tribe of the Pacific Northwest.

12. Pacific white-sided dolphins can leap to towering heights of 15 to 20 feet, turn somersaults in the air, or belly flop with a dramatic splash. Jumping can help them see above the water or communicate with fellow dolphins.

13. Clocked at up to 25 miles per hour, Pacific white-sided dolphins are one of the fastest swimmers in the ocean.

14. Dolphins do not have a gag-reflex, which allows them to swallow their food whole. This allows them to catch food and eat it quickly when they find it.

15. When describing what it feels like to touch our Pacific white-sided dolphins, one trainer at Shedd noted they feel firm, smooth and a little colder than some expect. Some comparisons include a wet inner tube or a peeled hard-boiled egg.

VISUALS: Below find images and video b-roll of Shedd Aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

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