Naturalist Fact: Atlantic bottlenose dolphin


Image from TropicalParadise.

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most easily recognized ocean mammals thanks to their reputation as intelligent and playful creatures. Their long “beak” ends in a perpetual smile and their curious nature often results in interactions with humans. They can be found in warm ocean waters all over the world, limited only by temperature. On Little St. Simons Island, bottlenose dolphins are a common sight in the tidal creeks, where they use echolocation to expertly trap fish caught in the rapidly changing tides.

People commonly use the terms “dolphin” and “porpoise” interchangeably, but there are a few key differences between the two. Most visibly, dolphins tend to have longer beaks than porpoises. It is also easy to identify dolphins when they surface for air since their dorsal fin will appear curved compared to the triangle-shaped dorsal of the porpoise. Dolphins also have cone-shaped teeth while porpoises have spade-shaped teeth.

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Bottlenose dolphins are extremely social. They form groups called “pods” and communicate frequently using clicks and whistles, most of which are audible to humans. Their powerful tails and slender bodies allow them to travel quickly and jump extremely high—the fastest recorded bottlenose dolphin traveled at 18 miles an hour and the highest jumper reached 16 feet!

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