In the dolphin world, several dozen distinct species exist, with varying diet, habitat and all other matters in between. When it comes to eating eels, however, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) both definitely take the cake, although some other dolphins occasionally enjoy the slithery fish, too.
Bottlenose dolphins are carnivores, and eels do indeed make up part of their diet, according to the SeaWorld website's Animal Bytes feature. Apart from eating eels, bottlenose dolphins feed on a lot of krill, shrimp, anchovies, minnow, octopus, rays and squid along with other kinds of fishes -- think catfish, tarpon, speckled trout and sailfish. They generally eat solo. As far as quantity goes, fully mature bottlenose dolphins typically take in anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of sustenance daily, the American Cetacean Society website says.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins
Like their much larger bottlenosed relatives, Atlantic spotted dolphins also regularly consume eels, particularly tiny ones. Within the eel realm, Atlantic spotted dolphins are particularly fond of conger eels. Other common components of the Atlantic spotted dolphin diet are herring, squid and numerous kinds of fishes. Some of these dolphins' fishy faves include flounder, razorfish, flying fish and needlefish, for starters.
Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin
Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus) are occasionally eel eaters, with a specific preference for sand eels. Apart from sand eels, these sturdy dolphins also eat other fish, squid and shrimp. Atlantic white-sided dolphins are partial to certain types of fish, such as smelt, hake, horse mackerel, blue whiting and silvery pout. Once in a while, these dolphins also feed on krill.
The white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) is another consumer of sand eels. These agile swimmers aren't too picky about what types of fish they eat. They are big on more substantial fishes such as haddock and cod. Outside of the fish world, white-beaked dolphins dine on benthic crustaceans, octopus and squid.
The two species of "common dolphins" also sometimes eat sand eels, as they generally display opportunistic feeding patterns and aren't too fussy. Apart from sand eels, common dolphins also feast on many other kinds of fishes, such as whiting, horse mackerel, hake, cod and herring. These two species are known as the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) and the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis).
- NOAA Fisheries: Bottlenose Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Tursiops truncatus
- National Geographic: Bottlenose Dolphin
- SeaWorld Animal Bytes: Bottlenose Dolphin
- American Cetacean Society: Bottlenose Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Stenella frontalis
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Stenella frontalis
- NOAA Fisheries: Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
- Society for Marine Mammalogy: Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
- NOAA Fisheries Service: Pilot Whale, Common Dolphin and White-Sided Dolphin Life History, Behavior and Physiology Characteristics