Research on dolphins and their behaviors took off in the middle of the last century. Scientists, like Jacques Cousteau, explored the biology and sociology of these animals.
These magnificent creatures were found to have unusually large brains, a complicated social structure, highly intelligent hunting techniques and very interesting skin.
Dolphin skin is distinct from other mammals. It does not contain any sweat glands and is totally hairless. Beneath the thin outer surface of skin cells is a thick layer of blubber. Blubber contributes to their buoyancy and keeps them warm in deeper, colder water. To keep this blubber layer stocked, dolphins spend the majority of the day hunting fatty fish.
The rubbery skin of the dolphin is extremely sensitive. A high concentration of nerve endings around their head, blowhole and beak helps them perceive prey in waters with low visibility. Their sensitive skin also factors into their social lives. Related dolphins can sometimes be seen rubbing against one another. In rare cases, dolphin will also rub their bodies on rubber boats for a similar effect.
Dolphins are renowned as incredibly fast swimmers, reaching recorded speeds of over 50 knots.
For the most part, this is due to the large and powerful muscles that run the full length of their body. But their skin also contributes to this hydrodynamic performance. It is covered in folds that direct water to flow seamlessly over their bodies. The thin outer layer of skin is constantly flaking off and being replaced by new cells. In fact, dolphins replace all of their outer skin cells every two hours. This skin regeneration keeps the dolphin epidermis soft and sleek.
The skin on dolphins is just one of the amazing aspects of their biology and sociology.
While most dolphin groups migrate seasonally, Hilton Head is renowned for its year-round population of these magnificent mammals. Lowcountry dolphins enjoy the mild waters here with warm temperatures between local islands during the summer months. These amazing creatures closer to shore to hunt because of this.
Get outside and discover these fascinating creatures and Hilton Head Island’s incredibly diverse ecology on a guided dolphin trip or eco tour.
By Jessie Renew of Outside
For more than 30 years, has provided personalized adventures for all ages, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to kids’ camps, history excursions, family outings and stand-up paddle boarding. For more information, call Outside Hilton Head at 843-686-6996 or go to outsidehiltonhead.com.