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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Bottlenose Dolphin

“Tursiops truncatus”

The Bottlenose Dolphin is perhaps one of the most commonly seen cetaceans in the world. They are light to slate-gray on the upper part or dorsal surface of their bodies, fading to lighter gray on the sides and pale gray or pink on the belly. The dorsal fin is tall and curves toward the rear of the animal. The tail flukes are curved with a deep notch in the middle and the pectoral fins are of medium length & pointed. Bottlenose Dolphins have a robust body with a short stubby rostrum or beak, which earned it the name “bottlenose”. There are 86 to 100 sharp, cone-shaped teeth in its mouth which allow the animal to grasp slippery prey. They travel in standard pods ranging from 5-20 animals as an average but there have been recorded pods numbering well above 250 individuals. Their varied diet includes fish, squid and crustaceans. Bottlenose Dolphins exhibit a diverse range of feeding strategies: they may hunt cooperatively often herding fish into tight circles, feed in association with fishing boats, dig in the sand to uncover food items or chase fish onto mud banks.

Adults reach 6–12 feet in length & weigh 400–800 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females. Bottlenose Dolphins are found worldwide in tropical & temperate waters often along coastlines or in bays, harbors or estuaries. While Bottlenose Dolphins are not endangered, some populations are depleted. In U.S. waters, they are protected by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Coastal populations may be especially vulnerable to habitat degradation, including high levels of pollutants from human activities both onshore and in the water. Bottlenose Dolphins are a top predator in the ocean with few predators of their own. Killer Whales & sharks occasionally prey upon Bottlenose Dolphins. Major threats come from humans as they are accidentally caught in fishing gear such as gill nets, purse seines & shrimp trawls and become entangled in discarded fishing gear or mono-filament line. 

 

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