1. Where are some of the best places to see marine mammals in northern New England?
  2. How can I work with marine mammals here in northern New England? 
  3. What should I do if I find a marine mammal that looks like it may be in trouble? 
  4. What are dolphin behaviors that make people believe they are so intelligent? 
  5. How long do dolphins live? 
  6. How do dolphins recognize one another? 
  7. Are seals social animals, similar to whales and dolphins? 
  8. Are the terms "porpoise" and "dolphin" interchangeable? 
  9. I saw three dolphins, two large, one small. Is this a mother, father and its baby? 
  10. Do all whales and dolphins have a blowhole?

1. Seals can be seen on rocky shores all over New England. The best times of the year may be in the late spring when the pups and their mothers come ashore. Whales and dolphins are usually seen within 15 miles of the coast, where food is abundant. Links to some organized marine mammal watches:

2. If you would like to work with marine mammals, it may be best to volunteer with organizations that closely reflect your interests.

Do you want to help rehabilitate seals? Assist a veterinarian to get experience.

Are you an activist against dolphins being caught with tuna? Study law and government.

Are you interested in training dolphins? Taking classes in psychology, such as behavior modification, learning and motivation may be best.

A strong background in zoology or marine biology is a plus, but many organizations are looking for individuals with diverse backgrounds. Top of page

3. If you find a stranded or injured marine mammal, it is best NOT to handle or get too close to the animal. Instead, call the marine mammal authority in the area to assess and care for the animal. The Department of Marine Resources and/or Coast Guard where you live will be able to direct your call. In Southern Maine, the Marine Animal Lifeline will respond to all emergencies: 851-6625. Top of page

4. "Animal Intelligence" is a term that humans use relative to themselves, making the topic highly controversial. Therefore, it is difficult to measure many behavioral attributes in any animal. However, the research that Dr. Louis Hermann of the University of Hawaii's Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, for instance, has concluded that bottlenose dolphins are able to distinguish syntax of language, and are self aware, making many believe the may be more "intelligent" than other animals. Top of page

5. Wild dolphins can live for 20-30 years and some captive dolphins are over 40! The age of the dolphin can be determined by examining a tooth. Once cut, rings, like those seen in the trunk of a tree, show the animals age.

It should be noted that infant mortality in all marine mammals brings averages down considerably. Many dolphins do not live to be one year old.  Top of page

6. Many marine mammalogists believe that one of the unique sounds that dolphins make is a personalized call termed a "signature whistle." It is a high pitched series of squeaks, that when further analyzed, does not sound like any other dolphin. This may be their auditory "fingerprint." A stream of tiny bubbles is released from their blowhole during the whistle. Top of page

7. Seals do not have the same social encounters seen in whales and dolphins. Like many animals, however, females and their pups share a maternal bond. Top of page

8. Although the terms are often used mistakenly for one another, there are differences between dolphins and porpoises, the most striking being that porpoises have a broader, rounded beak, and spade-shaped teeth. Dolphins have a pointed beak, conical teeth, and are generally much larger. Top of page

9. Adult male and female dolphins rarely remain together for extended periods of time, particularly in the case where a juvenile dolphin is present. Adult males have been observed attacking juveniles in the wild. It is thought that this is so the female becomes more likely to mate with the male to produce his offspring, rather than focusing on the care of the infant of another male for several years. Top of page

10. Some whales have two blowholes! Baleen whales (Finback, Minke and Humpback whales are a few examples) have two on the tops of their heads- analogous to nostrils. Top of page