How Do Dolphins Get Their Food?

The most common techniques dolphins use to get food are called herding and corraling. Dolphins work together as a team to hunt and catch a school of fish and other prey.

Dolphins use various methods to obtain food, depending on their habitat and food sources. They typically use methods that require teamwork and cooperation. Herding is a hunting technique that involves encircling a school of fish and packing them into a concentrated group. Once a team of dolphins surrounds a school of fish, the dolphins swim from the bottom and alternately take as many fish as possible. Corralling means chasing fish to shallow waters. Dolphins sometimes drive fish against sand bars and shorelines, so they can trap and catch the fish easily. Like in herding, dolphins take turns snatching a large amount of fish.

Some species of dolphins use unique techniques to capture prey. In Shark Bay, Western Australia, coastal bottlenose dolphins place sponges on the edge of their noses for protection as they attempt to uncover bottom-feeding fish. They typically use a sponge when searching for food in rocky or sandy bottoms. Research by Georgetown University showed that female dolphins mostly use this technique, whereas male dolphins prefer to socialize than to learn the hunting strategy from their mothers. Additionally, bottlenose dolphins also sometimes use their tail flukes to flip a fish and catch the dazed prey.