10 reasons why marine mammals aren’t as cute as you think they are

Image from PrettyFabulous.com

When people learn that I’m a marine biologist, they often assume I got into this career because I want to be a dolphin trainer. The general public seems to believe that marine mammals are cute and cuddly and innocent, but sharks are cruel and evil and bad. In reality, nature is an amoral place- our morality is, by necessity, anthropocentric and doesn’t really relate to the wild behavior of animals. If this wasn’t the case, though, here are ten reasons why marine mammals aren’t as cute and cuddly and innocent as people sometimes think they are.

1) Female dolphins who have recently given birth are not interested in mating, since they are spending their time and energy taking care of their new baby. Male dolphins know this…and have been known to kill baby dolphins so that the mother is more interested in mating with them.Baby dolphins, I’ll admit, can be  cute. Killing a baby dolphin so that you can sleep with the grieving mom is not cute.

2) Dolphins torture and kill baby sharks. While dolphins attacking and sometimes killing adult sharks to protect their babies is understandable, isn’t torturing and killing small animals a sign that you may become a sociopath? At the very least, torturing and killing small animals is not cute.

3) Like sharks, dolphins are efficient and brutal predators. I’ve never understood why people think that sharks are vicious but dolphins are cute when both have similar diets. Dolphins are, if anything, more clever in how they kill their prey. Being better at killing certainly does not make something cute.

4) A beach in Florida was recently shut down because of a mile-long stretch of it was covered by an unknown and disgusting smelling substance. After some research, the substance was determined to be manatee poop. While you and I can speculate if this was intentional economic terrorism all day, logic tells us that something can not simultaneously be disgusting and cute.

5) This image, first discovered by David Honig, is cleverly entitled “Leopard seal pulling the head right off a penguin“. Awesome? Yes. Cute? No.

6) Several of the most common marine mammal diseases are sexually transmitted. Come on now, dolphins. Lots of small children idolize you. You aren’t being very good role models. Wait until you’re married. STD’s are very, very not cute.

7) Orca whales can kill great white sharks, the stereotypical vicious predator. Again, being better at killing than something infamous for being vicious does not make you cute.

8 ) The very existence of Wet Goddess makes dolphins less cute. Just as I can never think of apple pie the same way after watching “American Pie”, I can’t think of dolphins the same way after reading some of what the author wrote. Is that the dolphin’s fault? No, but I don’t care- read some of that book and you will never think of dolphins as cute and innocent again.

9) There is something called a “dolphin assisted birth“, which is like a water birth…except there are dolphins nearby. While this is again not really the dolphin’s fault, inspiring hippies to do crazy things does not a cute animal make.

10) Whale Whores. Very not cute.

Again, the very concept of “morality” and “right and wrong” doesn’t apply to the behavior of wild animals. Wild animals just do what they do to survive. However, marine mammals are clearly not as cute and cuddly and innocent as some people believe.



  1. becca · April 8, 2010

    The flaw in your reasoning is that you assume “badass sonsofbitches demonically evil smart-ass jerks” is incompatible with “cute”.
    Stewie Griffin. I rest my case.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 8, 2010

      I love Stewie Griffin, but I certainly don’t think he’s cute. Brilliant? One of the best TV characters ever? Sure. But I don’t think constantly attempting to kill your mother makes someone cute.

    • Chuck · April 8, 2010

      I find dogfish and baby sharks pretty damn adorable. Maybe there is something to this argument.

  2. Erin W · April 8, 2010

    While I agree that dolphins, like killer whales and several seal species, have a very vicious aspect to their behavior, photoshopping little red horns on a dolphin is pretty darn cute.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 8, 2010

      No! It’s NOT cute! It makes them look like a demon! A DEMON! Demons are not cute. Why do you taunt me so?

    • Bob O'H · April 8, 2010

      That dolphin is laughing at you. I think that proves it’s evil.

  3. Darren Tebbutt · April 8, 2010

    I am just wondering what inspired this article on marine mammals and the fact you are trying so hard to prove they are not cute. I for one have never looked at these animals as cute just creatures who deserve their place on earth as much as us.
    Sharks already get a lot of bad press even though that the amount of shark attacks are so minor its hardly worth the statistic, yet they are hunted down by fishermen for their fins to satisfy the need of Japan. Now with the disappointment of the Cites meeting at Doha sharks along with blue fin tuna are left out to slaughter by us humans. As you are a marine biologist I just don’t get this article when the state of our oceans are so desperate, does it matter if people who aren’t bothered to be informed think these mammals are cute, the main need right now is support not bad press from the public.
    Human beings are the worst living creature on this planet for cruelty, listing back hundreds of years and still today happening, rape, murder, child abuse, animal cruelty, chemical warfare, pollution, seal clubbing, dolphin slaughter in Taiji and the list goes on and on. I have been reading your blog and other works and have enjoyed your informed opinion on many subjects but this article I just don’t get it. Hope you appreciated this is just the way that I feel that it reads and would value your opinion on what inspired this work.
    Many thanks
    Darren Tebbutt

    • WhySharksMatter · April 8, 2010

      Hi, Darren!

      Many members of the general public assume that dolphins are cute but sharks are mean and scary. This has often been cited as a reason why it’s easier to get people behind a marine mammal conservation effort than a shark conservation effort.

      I was trying to show that marine mammals aren’t always as cute as people think.

      I’m not trying to say “sharks and dolphins both do things we find distasteful, therefore we shouldn’t conserve either of them”. Not at all.

      I’m trying to say “sharks and dolphins both do things that we find distasteful, therefore caring more about dolphin conservation than shark conservation doesn’t really make sense”.

      I hope this helps.

  4. DrS · April 8, 2010

    That leopard seal picture is disgusting, badass, and a little bit hilarious.

  5. Al Ulrich · April 8, 2010

    It is interesting to see how people project positive human characteristics on some sea mammals but demonize sharks.

    I have to admit though that your dolphin picture is pretty cute. Never seen a shark look that cute.

  6. Erin W · April 9, 2010

    Slap a halo on a shark and you’d think it was cute, Al.

  7. Malcolm J. Brenner · April 10, 2010

    I don’t ever remember saying dolphins were cute. If I ever thought they were cute, they quickly demolished that idea by trying to drown my girlfriend. I think they can be evocative, mysterious, sexy, frightening, playful and fiendishly intelligent, but cute? No way.

    Well, maybe just the babies.

  8. JOYishere · April 11, 2010

    I had no idea that these creatures were so violent! Although I will never stop saying they’re ‘adorable’ or ‘so cute’, I will forever remember that seal ripping of the penguin’s head. Ew. It’s interesting to know that although dolphins are very playful, when they are playful they tend to be aggressive. Aggression is something they sure do have since they will kill the dolphin babies or torture poor little shark babies!

    Who says these animals can’t be cute, AND cruel? 🙂

    What upsets me the most about this post is learning that although some of these animals are thought of as cute, it has been brought to my attention that they aren’t. Not even a little bit, not at all.

    Interesting facts, Thanks!

    • CollegeOpinion132006 · April 29, 2010

      Many things in life are cute and cruel. It’s the fact of why we think they are cute that is falsely stated. We see many animals as cute because of their eyes, the tricks they have learned, or by the way movies portray them to benefit the movie sales. By no means does anyone honestly believe a dolphin is cute while it is killing another baby dolphin, however to them this is an act that must occur for another action to be made possible. Therefore I’m sure they could care less whether we think they are sweet and cuddly as they are preforming this horrific scene. Cute is a common misused word when it comes to animals. Or atleast in my opinion it is

  9. Sula · April 11, 2010

    Personally, I think some of your reasons are a bit of a stretch in your argument that marine mammals are not cute (e.g. no. 9), especially as you missed out some of the really sensational examples of cetacean uncuteness. For example – dolphins ramming and killing harbour porpoises in Scotland, countless anecdotes of dolphins trying to drown people (one famous dolphin in Brazil headbutted two swimmers, killing one and hospitalising the other – although this aggressive behaviour was reportedly provoked by the people themselves), and the famous story of a group of killer whales off the coast of Eden in Australia actually helping human whaling boats herd baleen whales into the shallows to be killed, so they could share in the bounty! Now that’s definitely un-cute!

  10. meaydlet · April 14, 2010

    Dear Flipper,
    I am on to you. No more will I be dancing with you or letting you kiss me on the cheek. No more will I fall for your adorable flips and splashes. I would much rather jump in a shark tank because at least they’re honest about their intentions.
    Also, how about the next time you kill a baby and get with Ms. Flipper, practice safe sex. Marine STDs…not cute.

  11. bjaded · April 19, 2010

    I have to agree with JOYishere on this article. I have always heard how friendly dolphins and most marine mammals are in general. I had no idea that they can be so violent and territorial. I don’t think I can look at the dolphins down at Waterfront Park the same ever again.

    • CollegeOpinion132006 · April 29, 2010

      I believe the friendly dolphins you are referring to, are as well the ones you pay to swim with or see in an aquarium. They are held captive to the reality of having to kill and hunt their prey because it is hand feed to them on a daily basis. They are trained and raised to be nice. Therefore I’m sure you have yet to hear a horrifying story about a dolphin being anything less than cute. However that is also what the killer whale’s trainer Dawn Brancheau, thought of the animal right before it drug her to the pool floor and drowned her.

  12. candiu08 · April 19, 2010

    WOW! My reaction to the list of reasons. I had absolutely no idea that those statements were true. I guess I’ve been brainwashed by the “media”, as have many others. The dolphins that I’ve seen look so cute, fun, and TRAINED. However, that goes to show the difference between a wild animal and one that’s been placed in captivity. I wasn’t even aware that STDs were common among marine animals as well.

  13. Jeremy Nielsen · April 20, 2010

    This list is so funny! especially number 5. My perception of marine mammals has changed forever. Although I feel this post is a little biased towards the sharks.

    Dolphins… not cute!

  14. dani · April 20, 2010

    Definitely something new! I have always thought dolphins are so cute. Possibly because there are so many movies about Dolphins and how wonderful they are. Although I will choose Dolphins over sharks any day, Sharks scare me and I really don’t think someone is going to change my opinion.
    And the fact that dolphins and STDs are in the same sentence crack me up, who would have thought!

  15. Dudeguy · April 22, 2010

    This is quite true and I have tried to tell people many times. However you look at it, Dolphins are dolphins as we think…meaning we swim with them and dream them. Sharks on the other hand are on the news and in nightmares. It is something that is almost programmed into all of us.

    • CollegeOpinion132006 · April 29, 2010

      In no way is it programmed in us. Society allows for this false advertisement of dolphins being friendly and for sharks to be viewed as killing machines. I myself have fallen into their traps and so as well see them as such things but I know the truth of these animals. One must always understand an animal does what it must to survive, even in captivity where a shark or dolphin is raised around human interaction, they will always return to their wilderness instincts if they feel threatened. I just feel that this false idea of what a dolphin is and what sharks are viewed as, have negatively affected the animals well being and as well our safety that we assume we have or lack around such animals

  16. CofC7 · April 29, 2010

    Wow, I love the ocean, but never knew dolphins were so vicious/sexually active! My friend wants to be a dolphin trainer so I will be sure to show her this post. I am sure she will find it as interesting as I did. This definitely made me change my mind about how “cute” dolphins are. I also found it fascinating that Orca Whales can kill Great Whites, I didn’t think anything could conquer something like that! Enjoyed this post. 🙂

  17. BioCofC · April 30, 2010

    I did know that marine mammals did some of that. I knew that dolphins killed sharks to protect their young but I didn’t know that dolphins killed baby sharks. I had no idea about a lot of these facts and they are very interesting. I enjoyed reading about them and honestly some of them were funny because the way you explained it. I knew that every animal has a mean side but I never thought that dolphins were that mean. I guess it is because of the media and news where they make things cute. I believe that some sharks are cute and yet the news thinks that sharks are very mean. I guess it is in the eyes of the person but after knew everything about the marine animal that you think is cute at first will change.

  18. Dan Martin · June 15, 2010

    You obviously don’t understand the meaning of cute.

    When somebody says that something is “cute”, it’s because their appearance has evoked an emotional feeling in them that we don’t have a word for (at least not in English). It’s an attribute of sight, not knowledge. I suspect many men don’t feel this feeling so they don’t understand it. I’m sorry, but seeing a little kitten turn around and savagely rip a mouse to shreds or attack their injured sibling, doesn’t make it one, tiny, bit less cute, any more than Jennifer Love Hewitt would suddenly become less beautiful if we found out she was a serial killer!

  19. AlexaBio102 · November 30, 2010

    That decapitated penguin shot might be the most legitimate wildlife photo I have seen in awhile. I am over whale tail shots. Dolphins, however, are still cute. Maybe they are killing baby sharks because they saw those baby sharks’ Daddy’s kill their Dolphin brothers? Only suggesting that maybe Dolphins are cute and badass?

  20. DolphinHeart · February 14, 2011

    Ok well this is biased. It is true that everyone believes dolphins are all cute and docile when the truth is they hunt and act wild by nature! However, just because an animal kills for food, is sexually active, defends itself when threatened, and doesn’t act “cute” every single second of its life doesn’t mean that it is not a lovable animal! I knew all of this and dolphins are my life. I love them. I respect their nature and the way that they were born to be. Trainers have hypnotized them out of these habits for us people to enjoy and only focus on the lovable side. This is not the truth. Every animal has a rough side to it. People love horses, when horses kill humans and each other every year. People love tigers, tigers do the same thing. And monkeys. Chimpanzees kill other chimpanzee young and we think they are adorable.
    Yes for those of you who have been blinded by Sea World, welcome to reality. No animal is all good. Same with humans. No human is all good. Like I said, I love dolphins and I know that they can be vicious like all other animals.

    • WhySharksMatter · February 15, 2011

      “It is true that everyone believes dolphins are all cute and docile when the truth is they hunt and act wild by nature”

      Sure is.

  21. dolfinlover · February 15, 2011

    I agree with DolphinHeart 150% Just because dolphins need to kill to eat, have children, and defend itself mean dolphins are evil and cruel? No way! It does these things to survive! It needs to eat and protect itself just liek you or I. We kill cows and chicken for meat, does this now mean we are evil and cruel? No, it does not. It is the same for dolphins. Dolphins are wild animals for crying out loud. Bears harm people too yet people still love them, so do tigers, etc. etc.
    Yes dolphins can hurt you, and yes sharks can to but they are misunderstood. People think that sharks bite and kill people because they “like to” or “want to” , no they MISTAKEN us as food. Its as simple as that. So yes dolphin and whales have hurt people but that is no need for you to picking on them because there are also many times when I have heard on the news about dolphins saving people from harm in the ocean, and dolphins and very intellegant and their brains are the size of ours.
    I love dolphins so I know all of this. This is no reason for you guys not hate dolphins or say they are evil because they are not.

  22. Southern Fried Scientist · February 15, 2011

    Wonder Fin powers, activate! Form of… reading comprehension!

  23. Vicki · April 5, 2011

    That punctuation
    matters most to those that field
    offense; on you? lost.

    comment edited as per rule 5a

  24. Vicki · April 6, 2011

    WhySharkSmatter, don’t count your eggs before the cows come home to roost.

    comment edited as per Rule 5a

  25. Vicki · April 6, 2011

    Ummm.. No duh of corse leopord seals are going to eat the thing they eat by killing it. We arent so inecent either. We are brobaly worse we kill things to it them to Smart One!

    • Vicki · April 6, 2011

      Eat them i mean

    • Southern Fried Scientist · April 6, 2011

      New commenters are invited to read the comment policy before posting.

      Also, what exactly does:

      We are brobaly worse we kill things to it them to Smart One!

      even mean?

  26. Emily · May 28, 2011

    Mmm….I agree that the picture of a leopard seal ripping of the head of a penguin is awesome, it’s guts, like, fly everywhere!! I love dolphins! They’re my favourite animal! And, I hate sharks, so I don’t mind a dolphing torturing and killing one… Cool page. 🙂

    P.S. Dolphins are ADORABLE!!!

  27. Brittnay · September 9, 2011

    i think that dolphins will as cute as they are, can be violent towered sharks, i am scared of sharks but i think that they are cool and on of Gods great creations

  28. Brittnay · September 9, 2011

    PS why did you put horns an a dolphin

  29. Brittnay · September 9, 2011

    pss the cookie cuter shark hurts dolphins so their for dolphins just dont hurt sharks but a shark hurts them

  30. Brittnay · September 9, 2011

    oh ya and leopard seals are not cute go sharks for eating them

  31. katie · September 21, 2011

    no duhh the seals are eating the penguin, they need to eat so they don’t die and sharks don’t randomly attack people they attack if threatened or hungry!!!and the mantee poop, we all poop dumb ass!!!! and the STD thing u cant get it by touching there skin isnt that what ur teacher told u!!!!!! u guys need to get a life!!!!!!

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