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Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata)

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin


The pantropical spotted dolphin is one of the smallest species out there. They have a very unique color scheme to them that you will find to be very interesting. They have dark black coloring with white or gray speckles on them. The white from their belly extends around the front as well and then goes along the back of the body. There are black speckles on this white portion. The speckles will vary in size and location on each of them.


You will find the pantropical spotted dolphin where there are temperate and tropical waters for them. They have been identified along the coast of Texas and many people come there to watch them. They are also common along the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and California.


These dolphins form small groups of no more than 30 members. Yet some researchers have found groups of more than 1,000. It is believed that these are isolated incidents. Further studies show that it may coincide with some form of migration or mating rituals. That would bring many smaller groups together to pose as one larger one for that period of time. Even after a great deal of observation, there aren’t any identified patterns of hierarchy behavior among this species of dolphins. For many others that is based upon age, size, and sex. These groups don’t seem to have leaders or followers but to be in sync with each other completely.

Diet and Feeding

They tend to hunt for food at night, going very close to the surface of the water to find it. They feed upon squid, mackerel, various types of small fish, and shrimp.


Sexual maturity occurs about five years of age for both the males and females. After mating occurs the offspring will be born from11 to 12 months later. The offspring will consume milk from the mother for the first year of life. However, the mother won’t conceive the following year. Generally there is 26 months between the time she has a pup and when she mates again. Stenella attenuata


In the late 1970’s an estimated 400,000 pantropical spotted dolphins were killed due to accidents with fishing boats or getting tangled up in nets that were meant for tuna. Efforts were put into place by the various governments to help reduce the problem. By 1999 only 5,000 dolphins annually were being harmed under the same types of circumstances. Since the early 1980’s there has been a significant amount of conservation efforts out there for this species of dolphin. They were becoming vulnerable due to the many commercial fishermen out there after tuna. With changes to the types of nets used for that process there is less of a risk to these dolphins than a couple of decades ago. It may surprise you though to find that more than three million of them exist. However, researchers felt that at the rate they were being killed 20 years ago that they would have no chance of survival. Today they thrive as the second highest population of dolphins with only the bottlenose having more of them. Still, there were more than seven million of them just 50 years ago so you can see how much their numbers have dropped over the course of time.

Human interaction

The research materials from a couple of years ago though so that human interaction is still creating problems for the pantropical spotted dolphin. Even though they are using safer nets, many of the offspring get separated from their mothers due to the different nets in place. They aren’t able to survive on their own so there is a high mortality rate.



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September 2015
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