Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin
Dolphins are a species of small toothed whales. They are considered mammals because they are born with hair, have lungs (breath air), give live birth, nurse their young, are warm blooded and have larger, more developed brains than other animals. Dolphins are considered to be highly intelligent.
Porpoises differ from dolphin in that their head is blunt and have a triangular dorsal fin. The dolphin has a beak-like snout and a curved dorsal fin.
Female dolphin are sexually mature at 8 years of age. They give birth every 2 – 3 years. This can happen any time of the year, but usually takes place in the Spring and Summer. Pregnancy lasts 11 – 12 months, and the calf is delivered tail first. Calves are born around 3 feet long and weigh between 25 – 40 pounds. Calves may begin eating fish as early as 3 months, but continue nursing for up to 18 months.
Adult dolphins can reach a length of 12 feet and 1400 pounds, but most grow to 10 feet and 500 pounds. In the wild, dolphin have a life span of 30 years. The males are called Bulls, while the females are referred to as Cows. The young are called Calves. Adult dolphin live in small groups called pods. These pods may have as many as 12 dolphin. Several pods may come together to form a group of several hundred dolphin at one time.
Since the dolphin are air breathers and must be aware of their surroundings at all times, they let half of their brain sleep at one time. They must remain at the surface of the water. First, they close one eye and allow one side of the brain to sleep, then they switch sides. The dolphin remains motionless during this time.
Dolphins use 94 sharp teeth to eat fish and crustaceans. They consume 14 pounds of fish and crustaceans a day, and 20 pounds or more in colder months. They are opportunistic feeders. They have been observed following shrimp boats to feed on the fish discarded overboard by the shrimpers. Dolphin also work together to herd fish into a tight ball, then they attack from all sides at the same time.
People should never feed dolphin. Dependence on humans is always dangerous for wild animals. Also, adults in the pods have been known to leave their calves unprotected while going for a human handout, and Tiger sharks, Bull sharks, and other predators may take advantage of this vulnerability to attack the young dolphin.
Swimming and Breathing
The dolphin usually cruises at 7 miles per hour, but is capable of short burst of 30 miles per hour or more. They are able to dive to a depth of 1000 feet and can slow their heart rate, which allows them to stay under for up to 8 minutes at a time. Dolphin prefer to make shallow dives and take a breath every 2 or 3 minutes. They are able to leap from the water in a jump that reaches 20 feet.
The dolphin enjoy swimming the bow wave of a moving vessel, the motion of the boat moving through the water gives them an almost effortless ride. However, a vessel should never take a heading aimed at the dolphin, they will voluntarily approach the vessel if the desire arrives.
Do You Dream About Encountering Dolphins in the Wild?
Yes, then our Key West Dolphin Encounter is for You!
On this Eco-Tour, you will not only encounter wild dolphins but snorkel in the same waters where the dolphins play. And you will learn lots about wild dolphin and other sea creatures, wildlife of the Key West, Florida Keys eco-system!
Echolocation is a term used to describe the way dolphin use sonar or sounds to identify each other, food availability, and obstacles under the water. The dolphin makes clicking sounds, which rebound off of solid objects and echo back to the dolphin. When the rebounding click returns, the dolphin can identify what the object is and how far away it is by the amount of time it takes to return and the quality of the returned sound. This allows dolphin to communicate with one another at night and in murky water.
Dolphin have a large range of displays. They appear playful as they leap from the water, one after the other, and roll about the waters surface. We know them to be protective of their young, as the mothers keep the calves alongside. These displays seem easy enough to interpret, but what about tail slapping, showing teeth, jaw snapping, or head butting? This is a show of dominance and aggression. When these actions are displayed, respect should be given by slowly moving away from the dolphin.
Dolphin, at times, swim above the schools of tuna, which has caused them to get caught in the tuna nets. In 1990, a tuna boycott pushed the United States Tuna canners to agree to only buy tuna from boats that fished where the dolphin and tuna swim separately.
The sighting of dolphin has always been regarded by seamen as good luck.