The bottlenose dolphin is one of the most commonly known species of dolphins. Found in many coastal areas around the world, it has a very distinct nose that sets out from its head. It is considered one of the smaller members of the Cetacea family, and a part of the suborder family of Delphindae. Even though they are considered small, these dolphins can actually grow to be quite large, ranging in length from under 4 feet for coastal dwellers to well over 12 feet long for those that live out in the open water. The body of a bottlenose dolphin is very streamlined with a gray rubbery skin on its back, and white under its chin and on its stomach. This shading helps to camouflage and protect the dolphin from predators. They have two pectoral flippers that they use for steering and stopping, and one dorsal fin on the center of their backs.
Bottlenose dolphins are very social and live in groups. The further out in the ocean they live, the larger the groups get. Dolphins are capable of forming strong bonds with their groups, however in these groups there is consistently a struggle for dominance among alpha members of the group. They have a very strong sense of hearing and very good eyesight, however, dolphins use a form of echolocation to navigate, instead of relying on their eyesight. To do this, they make a distinct clicking or squeaking sounds. To receive communications dolphins feel the vibration bouncing off objects around them to give them a picture of the area. Dolphins also communicate by using a whistling sound. Each dolphin has a very specific and distinct whistle.
Dolphins usually feed in the morning and late in the afternoon. Their diet consists of fish, squid, and other crustaceans. This can vary slightly depending on where they live. There is no specific time of year when they breed, a dolphin’s breeding schedule is dependant on the environment in which they live. Their calves are born in the water, and females are capable of giving birth every two years. The calves generally stay with their mothers for at least 3 years, and sometimes up to six years.
The average life span of a bottlenose dolphin is under 20 years. There have been exceptions when dolphins have lived for up to 40 years, but disease or predators, including sharks, are of the major causes of death for dolphins. Many dolphins wear the scars left from bites of tiger sharks, bull sharks, and even great white sharks. There are also many unnatural predators for the dolphin. The biggest predator the dolphin has is man. In some areas of the world dolphins are actually hunted for their meat. They may also become caught in fishing nets and in boat traffic. Their habitats are being destroyed and pollution is causing toxins to build up in their bodies . Although they are not considered an endangered species yet, they are considered threatened. Efforts are being made to conserve the bottlenose dolphin so they do not become endangered.
- Florida Keys Dolphin Alliance
- Conservation Research
- Bottlenose Dolphins and Tuna