Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins
Scientific Name – Tursiops truncatus
Scientific Order – Cetacea
Sub-order – Odontoceti (toothed-whales)
Size – 6 ½ to 12 feet (2 to 3.8 meters); Males are slightly larger than females
Weight – average weight about 380 pounds (200 kg)
- Dolphins have a medium size and robust body.
- The pectoral flippers are convex with pointed tips.
- The tail flukes shape is curved with a notch in the center.
The dorsal fin is tall, curved backwards, and positioned in the middle of the back.
- The rostrum is clearly marked from the forehead by a sharp crease, and the line of the mouth is curved up at the back.
- The coloration ranges from light gray to black dorsal side with a light belly (ventral side) that sometimes is pink in color.
Bottlenose dolphins are found in temperate and tropical waters around the world, except for Polar Regions.
The latest data shows that on average, a one-year old dolphin in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) accredited facilities will live for more than 25 years. Current scientific data shows that bottlenose dolphins in AMMPA member facilities live longer than their counterparts in the wild.
Bottlenose dolphin’s diet consists of small fish such as herring, capelin, mackerel, squid, mullet and sardines.
- Bottlenose dolphins have between 72 and 108 conical-shaped teeth.
- Dolphins swallow their prey whole and do not chew their food.
- Bottlenose dolphins do not have vocal cords like other mammals, so they make sounds from structures within their blowhole region.
- Bottlenose dolphins are known to make three types of sounds: whistles, echolocation clicks and burst-pulse sounds.
- One type of whistle is a "signature whistle", known to be specific to individuals and used for communication. Male calves have a signature whistle similar to their mother's whistle while female calves do not.
- Bottlenose dolphins have a well-developed sense of vision. Although dolphins can see very well both out of water and in clear, sun-lit water, they have little ability to distinguish color.
- A dolphin exchanges 80% or more of the air in its lungs with each breath, while humans only exchange 17% of the air in their lungs with each breath.
- A dolphin can hold its breath around seven minutes.
- Bottlenose dolphins have the ability to leap six meters (over 19 ½ feet) into the air.
- Bottlenose dolphins typically dive between 10 and 150 feet (3 to 45.7 meters).
- Dolphins have a thick layer of blubber just below their skin that is used for storing fat, insulation and buoyancy. The streamlined-shape and reduced limbs of dolphins conserves body heat by decreasing the amount of surface area exposed to the external environment.
- One theory about dolphin sleep is that a dolphin only uses half its brain while sleeping, enabling it to keep semi-alert while the other half of the brain rests.
- The strongest social unit for Bottlenose dolphins is the mother and calf bond.
- The gestation period of bottlenose dolphins is about 12 months, depending on conditions.
- A newborn dolphin is called a calf.
- The size of a newborn calf is between 42 to 52 inches (107 to 132 centimeters) and weighs between 30 and 45 pounds (14 to 20 kg).
Download the dolphin information from our Clicks & Whistles handout -
The Delightful World of the Dolphins and Dolphin Diaries (916 KB PDF file)