QUESTIONS for Risso’s Dolphins

Risso’s dolphins, a type of small “whale.”

J. Maughn/Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0)


Before reading

1.            What do you think a dolphin’s social life might look like? What might these animals do when they get together?

2.            Dolphins and whales live in the open ocean — and underwater. How might you try to figure out where they go and what they do, especially while they’re underwater?

During reading

1.            What does an acoustic tag do?

2.            Who are the Usual Suspects?

3.            Why do Risso’s dolphins appear white?

4.            Why have scientists found it difficult to study Risso’s dolphins?

5.            What are the two types of whales and what makes each different?

6.            Describe the differences between matriarchal pods and fission-fusion societies.

7.            What is special about how Risso’s dolphins group together?

8.            How is sponging spread from dolphin to dolphin?

9.            How is a bottlenose dolphin like a skateboarder?

10.         How do humpback whales catch sand lance fish?

After reading

1.    Is the way that humans interact with each other more like a fission-fusion society or like matriarchal pods? Explain your answer.

2.    People go whale watching all over the world. How might scientists use those observations to study social interactions between whales and dolphins?


1.    A Risso’s dolphin dives 300 meters underwater in pursuit of squid. It can spend a total of 30 minutes underwater. In kilometers per hour, how fast, on average, does the dolphin travel if during this trip it does nothing but dive straight down and then comes right back up? Now convert your answer into feet per minute.