Dolphins consume anywhere from 4 to 9 percent of their body weight each day, which translates to a daily total of just over 20 pounds and up to 50 pounds daily for an adult bottlenose dolphin weighing 550 pounds. As with other animals, the quantity of food dolphins consume depends primarily on availability of food in their environments. Female dolphins with nursing calves generally consume the most food each day, as they eat up to 8 percent of their body weight, say experts at SeaWorld.
Dolphins consume a variety of aquatic organisms, including shrimp, fish and squid. However, their main food source varies depending on their geographical location, say experts at SeaWorld. Dolphins living close to the shoreline often feed on crustaceans and small organisms that live on the bottom of the ocean. Dolphins residing farther offshore, in contrast, dine primarily on fish and squid. Popular fish for dolphins to eat include mackerel, cod, mullet, herring and capelin. Some fish, like mackerel and herring, have richer meats with more fat and calories than other species. Dolphins eat lesser amounts of these fish daily, but they consume higher amounts of low-calorie fish like squid.
Although perceived as peaceful creatures, dolphins are predators in the aquatic ecosystem. They may work in teams to herd and catch fish. Dolphins also employ several tactics, like breaking down food into bite-size pieces and tearing off pieces of flesh, to enjoy food without suffering injuries from sharp spines and to prevent choking.