Bottlenose Dolphins

Profile view of a bottlenose dolphin with head and dorsal fin above water.
Bottlenose dolphin

NOAA - National Marine Fisheries Service

The Tursiops Truncatus, or common bottlenose dolphin, is one of the most celebrated species in the waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore. The bottlenose is very intelligent like other dolphins. Some believe them to be one of the most intelligent animals.

The colors of bottlenose dolphins range from a light to slate gray on their backs. This fades into a lighter shade of gray on their sides and then a pale gray or pink on their bellies. They have a tall dorsal fin on their back that curves backwards. There are two pectoral fins on either side of their body, which are shorter than their back fin and come to a point. Their fluke, or tail fin has a curve and a deep notch in the middle. These dolphins get their name from their short and stubby rostrum or beak. This beak also has a curved mouth that gives bottlenose dolphins the appearance of a smile. This mouth contains 86-100 sharp, cone-shaped teeth. These teeth help the bottlenose to catch and hold on to slippery prey.
Bottlenose dolphins hunt together in groups for small fish, squid, and shrimp. Unique hunting and foraging techniques have been observed in the wild. These intelligent creatures will use tools and the environment to hunt efficiently. Some dolphins will move into shallow water to hunt schools of mullet. Using a corralling technique, one dolphin will swim out in front of the group and circle the school of fish. Beating its fluke against the muddy bottom creates a cloud that surrounds the fish. The fish, feeling trapped on all sides, leap directly into the air over the ring and into the dolphin’s mouths. Other dolphins will use tools. They cover their rostrums with a sponge to protect their sensitive skin while foraging in the rough sand. Additionally, dolphins will follow fishing boats to get easy meals. Females can start reproducing as early as 5 years old. After 12 months of pregnancy females give birth to live young. These calves are dependent on their mother’s milk for close to 2 years. Common bottlenose dolphins live between 30 and 50 years in the wild.
Humans create many major threats to bottlenose dolphins. Fishing line and other trash left in the oceans can entangle and harm them. Oil spills can also cause major damage to the their natural habitat. Even innocent acts of trying to feed dolphins in the wild can be harmful to their health. Feeding wild animals encourages unwanted animal behavior and results in harmful situations.

Last updated: April 24, 2020

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