- Streamlined, smooth-bodied marine mammal
- Dark gray coloration on upper back fading to a lighter gray on sides. White to light pink coloration on belly
- Their short, thick beaks are what give them the nickname bottlenose
- They have large, powerful pectoral flippers that are curved back slightly and pointed at the tips
- Their dorsal (back) fin is also curved back like their flukes to help them be streamlined
- Grow to a length of 6-13 feet and weight of 330-1435 pounds
- Found throughout the tropical and subtropical latitudes around the world
- Swim from nearshore to open ocean waters
- Often found within 20 miles of shore, in harbors, bays, lagoons, estuaries, and around large islands
- Bottlenose dolphins can live to be 40 years old, with some females living to be 60 or more
- They begin to reproduce at 5-15 years old
- Females begin to reproduce at a younger age than males
- Males often create small pods of 2-3 males that stay together for years, and only interact with pods of females for mating
- Females are pregnant for about 12 months
- Calves nurse for about 20 months and stay with their mothers for 3-6 years. Some females raise their calves with their mothers, forming multigenerational pods
- Females give birth every 3-6 years and can give birth as old as 45 years of age
- Wide variety of fishes, squid, and crustaceans
- Bottlenose dolphins may eat 15-30 pounds of fish a day
- They are eaten by killer whales and some large sharks
- Bottlenose dolphins hunt their prey by “fish whacking,” where they strike a fish with their tail flukes and knock it clear out of the water.
- Bottlenose dolphins love to ride the bow waves of boats and are known to interact with people in the wild.
- Marine mammal scientists can recognize individual bottlenose dolphins by their unique markings and their own unique whistles. Some dolphins that spend a lot of time together will even copy each other’s signature whistle!
- These sleek animals can swim at speeds over 18 miles per hour.
- Bottlenose dolphins can breach up to 16 feet out of the water, landing with a large splash.
Sources: Voices in the Sea; NCEAS; Alaska Fisheries Science Center; National Geographic; NOAA Fisheries; Sea World
Photo: Howard Hall
To hear a bottlenose dolphin’s call and see videos of them swimming, visit Voices in the Sea, a collaboration between the Pacific Life Foundation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Come celebrate these amazing animals during Birch Aquarium’s annual Whale Fest!