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Do whales and dolphins have families?

Yes they do. Social connections are evident in all species of whales and dolphins – they just love to be together. The family associations among them vary in terms of the kind or degree of closeness and longevity of the relationships. The bond may be loose and temporary or it may be permanent.

Dolphins are very social creatures and live together in pods. Pod life provides individuals with the companionship which is so important to them. The pod members look after one another and cooperate to catch food, raise their young and defend each other from predators. They also play together. The strongest links are without any doubt between mothers and their babies. Most pods contain anywhere from 2 – 30 dolphins depending on the species and the situation. Bottlenose dolphin pod membership can be quite fluid as different dolphins from the bigger community leave or join the pod.

For the fish-eating orcas, family life is very stable. Both sons and daughters remain with their mothers throughout their lives. With sperm whales, the matrilineal society includes just the mothers and their calves and siblings. Older males form separate pods that only visit female-led groups for mating.

Some of the large whales spend time alone but eventually join up for group activities such as feeding migrating or breeding. Even when they are seemingly alone, they are likely to be in acoustic contact with others.

Amazing facts about whales and dolphins

Dive deeper into the world of whales and dolphins and learn more about their lives.

A humpback whale pokes its head partway out of the water, a behavior called spyhopping

Facts about whales

Amazing facts about whales, the largest mammals to live on Earth.

two dolphins diving down out of the water

Facts about dolphins

From the orca to the tiny vaquita, learn more about these creatures.

Northern Resident orca, Fife, swimming at the surface

Record breakers

Whales and dolphins hold some incredible records.

Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Brain power

Just how intelligent are whales and dolphins?

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Humpback whale spyhop


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Bottlenose dolphin calf breaching with its whole body out of the water


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Breaching North Atlantic right whale


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Orca spyhop


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