Bizarre: Irrawaddy dolphin
The dome-headed dolphin with strange hunting habits
They’re pretty shy
While species like the bottlenose dolphin love to play at the surface, leaping and somersaulting out of the water, the Irrawaddy dolphin is much more reserved. It will occasionally jump and roll through the waves, but it usually avoids tourist boats and spends much more time underwater or with just its head peaking out – a behaviour known as spyhopping.
They spit at their food
These dolphins can squirt 1.5-metre (five-foot) jets of water from their mouths. This unusual behaviour is thought to help them herd fish, and it might also help them to get rid of water they ingest as they hunt and eat.
They act like sheepdogs
Some Irrawaddy dolphins have established a working relationship with local fishermen in India and Burma. By tapping on the side of their boats, fishermen attract the attention of the dolphins, and the animals form a semicircle to herd fish towards the waiting nets. In return for their assistance the dolphins are given the bycatch.
They’re like family to locals
In Cambodia and Laos, some people believe Irrawaddy dolphins are reincarnations of their ancestors. These beliefs meant that the dolphins were respected and left unharmed for many years, but recent developments in fishing, like increased intensity and the use of explosives, have put the species in danger.
They were once mistaken for whales
A characteristic feature of the dolphin is its prominent beak, but the Irrawaddy dolphin has a rounded head like a beluga whale or narwhal. It has previously been classified in a family with these whales, but genetic analysis has revealed that it’s an ocean dolphin closely related to the orca.