The Important Role of the Dolphin

Dolphins perform crucial roles in their native ecosystems. Wherever they’re found, from the murky depths of the Amazon River to the cold currents of the North Pacific, dolphins function as high-level predators, primarily of fish and squid (and, in the case of the biggest dolphin of all, the orca, virtually anything in the ocean). In any ecosystem, carnivores near or at the top of the food chain seem to establish fundamental order all the way down to the bottom, and their removal—as by human persecution—can have wide-ranging and highly complex repercussions.

A concept of ecology called “mesopredator release” suggests that the elimination of a top predator can provoke an explosion in the numbers of smaller, mid-level predators it formerly kept in check, radically transforming ecological dynamics. Numerous studies in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems seem to illustrate this principal. Major reductions in the populations of dolphins and large fish in the Black Sea, for example, were followed by increases in the abundance of plankton-eating fish and associated declines in zooplankton that, in turn, bolstered phytoplankton abundance.

This phenomenon can have very real effects on people. In the North Atlantic, massive declines of large sharks due to overfishing resulted in increased numbers of mesopredators such as skates, sharpnose sharks, and—most significantly—cownose rays. Increased predation pressure from these smaller hunters then led to a steep decline in bay scallops and a collapse of a long-standing scallop industry on the East Coast.

It is important to us to protect these intelligent marine mammals , and do whatever we can to make sure they are safe in their natural environment. This is a difficult job for just us, and we realize that we need the help of everyone to save these animals. Even if it’s a conscious effort to pick up some trash you found on the beach or your local waterways. If everyone in the world made this effort, we would have a clean and harmonious planet. You can help support us by booking a dolphin encounter tour , and learn more about our dolphins in the Bahamas.