The most well known and loved of all dolphin species is the Bottlenose Dolphin. They are attractive because they always seem to be smiling. This is due to the curved element on their face that turns upward on both sides as when a human is smiling.
This is a large sized dolphin with a body size ranging from 10 feet to 14 feet long. They can weigh up to 1,100 pounds. The average length though is 6 ½ feet to 12 feet and the average weight is from 330 pounds to 440 pounds. The overall size will vary based on their location. Studies show those that live in cooler bodies of water are larger than those living in the warmer temperatures.
The body of the Bottlenose Dolphin is very sleek and it is streamlined to help them move through the water with ease. They have skin that is smooth is it feels like rubber when you touch it. They don’t have any sweat glands or hair on the body. The outer layer of the skin is anywhere from 10 to 20 times thicker than that of terrestrial mammals.
The skin will flake and peel to allow for the old skin cells to fall off and for new ones to replace them. The Bottlenose Dolphin though does this very fast, and they may have a new outer layer of skin every couple of hours! This ensures that the skin remains smooth and that they are able to swim without any resistance. They have a short beak and they have flippers that are pointed. They are medium to dark gray in color with a lighter shade of gray on the flanks. The belly may be pink or white.
They have pectoral flippers as their forelimbs, and they are similar to the skeletal format of mammals on land that have forelimbs. However, those of the dolphin are modified and they are shorter. They are also supported by plenty of connective tissue. As the blood circulates through these flippers, it helps the Bottlenose Dolphin to be able to maintain the right body temperature.
Bottlenose dolphins – Genus Tursiops
The fluke is the name of the tail, and it doesn’t contain any muscle, cartilage, or bone. Instead, it has very dense connective tissue. The dorsal fin is curved for the Bottlenose dolphin, but the overall shape of it can vary by individual. The dorsal fin is also made from connective tissue. At the forehead there is the round melon. This is where the fat is stored that allows for echolocation to occur. The eyes are located at the side of the head, close to the corners of the mouth. They don’t have very large ears so you have to look closely right behind the eyes to see them.
These dolphins are found living in the warmer waters around the world most of the time, in the tropical oceans. Even though they can live in some cooler temperatures, they aren’t able to survive in the polar waters. They can be found in bays, around open shorelines, and even in rivers. They tend to live in water that ranges from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They have been identified in the Pacific Ocean in Australia, Northern Japan, Chile, and Southern California.
Some have also been identified around the Hawaiian Islands to the West. When you evaluate the California coast, they have been found around Monterey when it gets quite warm.Nova Scotia to Patagonia and into Norway are places you will find them in the Atlantic Ocean. They have also been identified around the tip of South Africa. The majority of them though are found along the coast of the USA from Cape Code down to the Gulf of Mexico. Both the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea are also home for the Bottlenose Dolphin. They have been seen in the Indian Ocean from Australia to Indonesia too, but this is mainly the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin subspecies.
They may live deep in the water and come up for air every couple of minutes. They can also live close to shore and get air almost continually. Some of them have been observed with the ability to dive and remain under the water for up to 4 ½ minutes before they get a breath so there is plenty of variation.
These dolphins are well known for breaching high into the air. They can go a distance of up to 16 feet into the air and then splash back down into the water. They may land on their side or their back from such an activity. They are known for their high level of intelligence that makes them easy to train in captivity. They have also been used in a variety of missions by the military that are water related such as finding mines.
It is hard not to like the charismatic personality of the Bottlenose Dolphin. They seem to always be smiling due to the curved look of their mouth. This makes them more approachable to humans that see them either in the wild or in captivity.
Like other dolphin species, they live in groups called pods. This species is very social and they may create very large numbers. However, they also have subgroups within a larger pod that helps with the hierarchy of things. Typically, a pod can be from 10 to 100 members but those with significantly more in them have been identified. They have also been observed in the wild interacting with the Pilot Whale.
They do migrate in for a variety of reasons. This includes the temperature of the water and to find enough food for survival. Many of them have seasonal migrational patterns that they follow annually. Others though will engage in different behaviors based on the variables around them.
The Bottlenose Dolphin is going to feed on what it can find in its natural environment of when they migrate. Fish is the most common food source but the species of fish can significantly vary from one location so the next. Another common source of food for them is squid. They rely on echolocation to help them find food resources.
They also work as a team to round up the schools of fish. Different strategies are used to get food too such as fish whacking where they will hit fish with their flukes. They can consume between 10 and 35 pounds of food daily. They don’t chew their food with their teeth, but they do rely on them to hold the prey.
The age for mating depends on the location of the Bottlenose Dolphin. It can range from 5 to 13 years for females and from 9 to 14 years for the males. After mating, it takes a year for the young calf to be born. They will drink milk from the mother until they are from 18 to 20 months old. The mothers will take care of the young until they are several years old. Females often have new offspring every 3 to 6 years. Males have an average lifespan of 40 to 45 years and females have an average life of 50 years in the wild.
Conservation Status and Threats
There are plenty of factors out there that threaten the well-being of the Bottlenose Dolphin. Pollution is a huge problem as it can make them vulnerable to disease. Both chemical and noise pollution can be deadly to them due to the high stress levels and the ingestion of various chemical elements. There are efforts in place to help reduce boating activity and pollution in given locations. In the UK they are also part of the Biodiversity Action Plan which makes it illegal to harm them in any way.