The Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) is one of about 40 species currently classified in the family Delphinidae.
Reaching lengths of 8 feet, spotted dolphins are usually smaller than Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, and tend to travel in bigger groups, or pods, of 20 or more. Like most dolphins, spotted dolphins are very family-oriented, which brings up an interesting question. Because they normally tend to stick together as a family, dolphin pods are by nature reproductively isolated. And most biologists consider reproductive isolation to be the most important factor in contributing to diversification over time. But why are there only about 40 classified species of dolphins? Some say dolphins have been around for tens of millions of years, which seems like plenty of time to have more than 40 species develop on our watery planet.
Besides reproductive isolation, dolphins are classified as different species based on traits that humans consider different enough to distinguish one population from another. But compare the 40 or so “species” of dolphins to the 150-plus “breeds” of dogs currently registered by the American Kennel Club. All breeds of dogs are considered to be one “species”, Canis familiaris, all developed over the last 2000+ years. However, just like a laborador retriever can successfully breed with a golden retriever, so too a spotted dolphin can successfully breed with the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Yet we classify them as different species, placing spotted dolphins in genus Stenella and bottlenose in genus Tursiops!
The truth is, a lot of confusion exists regarding how to define a species. Much confusion is remedied though, when we think of dolphins as one big family, or baramin. “Baramin” is the Hebrew word for “kind”, and is used many times in Scripture to describe God’s creative acts. Scripture is clear that their are different kinds of things, and that “all flesh is not the same flesh” (I Corinthians 15:39). Also, as Peter Leithart explains, the “The Bible unveils a God who gives enough and more than enough”, and we see this attribute revealed in His creation, too. We see one family of dolphins, which God gave “enough and more than enough” to adapt and diversify over time.
So few dolphin species, so little time
And speaking of time, that brings me back to the question of “why only 40 dolphin species?” With their natural tendency towards reproductive isolation, one might think that if the earth were as old as some say, we wouldn’t have dozens, we would have hundreds of dolphin species. I believe the fact that we don’t see much diversity is good evidence that the best interpretation of earth age is the one that lines up with the genealogies recorded in Scripture. It is not-so-common knowledge that research reveals both the genetic and geneaological trends in humans point to thousands, not millions or billions of years of earth history. It certainly seems the dolphin baramin displays a similar trend.
Dolphins, oil and gas, and Christian stewardship
Here are some video clips from a May 2012 trip into the Gulf of Mexico, about 30 miles SE of Freeport, TX.
I want you to consider everything you see in the video, not just the dolphins. Included are video clips of a pod of about 18-20 spotted dolphins. But you’ll also see a clip showing massive schools of fishes surrounding an oil and gas production platform. Think about it; what you are seeing is a man-made structure that also serves as an artificial reef, providing food and shelter for giant schools of snapper, blue runners, etc. And the spotted dolphins have come to reap the fishy harvest! Some conclusions I hope you will draw are 1) the dolphins are better off because of man’s activities in the Gulf, 2) the fish are better off because of man’s activities in the Gulf, and 3) Humans are better off because of man’s activities in the Gulf!
So, the next time you hear about the “evils of oil and gas”, or the “endangered marine mammals”, or “humans are destroying the planet”, remember this video! Followed properly, God’s dominion mandate for Christians in Genesis 1:26-28 will make our planet a more productive place, not just for mankind, but for all kinds. Only a fool would destroy the planet, but only a fool would overprotect it, too. God gave us an entire planet and then some to use, so let’s use it wisely!
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