What Do Dolphins Eat? (Dolphin Diet and Favorite Food)

In this article, we’ll answer the question:

“What do dolphins eat?”

First, you’ll find a short summary of what dolphins eat in nature, then get a list of a dolphin’s favorite foods that make up a typical dolphin diet. And finally, answers to common questions about dolphin feeding habits and nutrition.

Dolphins are carnivorous marine mammals within the infraorder Cetacea which also consists of whales. The term dolphin usually refers to the extant families Delphinidae, Platanistidae, Iniidae, Pontoporiidae, and the extinct Lipotidae, with the bottlenose dolphin being the most familiar species.

What do dolphins eat
Do Dolphins Eat Jellyfish?
Do Dolphins Eat Jellyfish?

What Do Dolphins Eat?

Dolphins eat fish, squid, jellyfish, octopuses, and other sea animals because they are carnivores. A dolphin’s diet is determined by the availability of prey in its ocean habitat.

Dolphin Diet (Favorite Foods)

  • Cephalopods
  • Crustaceans
  • Fish
  • Jellyfish
  • Krill
  • Marine mammals
  • Octopus
  • Plankton
  • Sea turtles
  • Squid

How Often Does a Dolphin Eat?

A dolphin often eats several times a day as they are opportunistic feeders. Dolphins spend most of their time finding food, which explains the frequent feeding.

How Much Do Dolphins Eat Per Day?

Dolphins eat approximately 4 to 6% of their body weight in food per day. An adult dolphin weighs between 150 to 200 kg (331.5 to 442 lbs.) which translates to around 20 pounds of food eaten each day.

A nursing mother’s food consumption rate is higher at around 30 pounds of food each day.

A dolphin can eat a large amount of food because the compartmentalized stomach aids rapid digestion.

How Long Can Dolphins Live Without Food?

Dolphins can only live for a few days without food. As opportunistic feeders with a compartmentalized stomach, dolphins need to eat frequently to survive.

Do Dolphins Eat Humans?

Dolphins do not eat humans, but dolphins can attack and bite people. Even though dolphins have teeth, they swallow their food whole, hindering them from eating humans. Cases of dolphins attacking humans are rare because of their non-aggressive nature and friendliness.

In this article by CNN, bottlenose dolphins are reported to hurt humans by butting them, resulting in lacerations and broken bones. But they did not feed on the humans for food.

Do Dolphins Eat Underwater?

Dolphins feed entirely underwater. As aquatic mammals, dolphins have adapted to hunting and catching food underwater. Dolphins ensure that their prey, particularly large ones, don’t float away by sucking them deep into their mouth.

Do Dolphins Eat Sharks?

Dolphins do not eat sharks. A dolphin may attack and kill a small shark, but it will not eat a shark because their mouths are not large enough. Dolphins only attack sharks for safety and protection because sharks are apex predators that can easily eat a dolphin.

What Animals Eat Dolphins?

Dolphins are prey to a number of different species.

You can visit our other guide on what animals eat dolphins to find out which predators actively feed on these marine mammals.

Dolphin diet

Dolphin Eating Habits and Diet Summary

You now know what do dolphins eat in the wild as well as the typical food in a dolphin diet.

As you discovered in this guide, dolphins are carnivores that prey on various species for nutrition with a dolphin’s favorite food being things like fish, shrimp, and octopus.