The bottlenose dolphin is the most common member of the Delphinidae family. Recent molecular studies showed that the genus contains two species, the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).
Like the name “bottlenose” suggests, this species of dolphin has a short, stubby beak. Its sleek, conical body varies in color from a light to slate grey on the upper body to a pale to pinkish grey on the bottom part. Their coloration ranges from light gray to black with lighter hues on the belly. Inshore and offshore individuals vary in color and size. Inshore animals are smaller and lighter in color, while offshore animals are larger, darker in coloration and have smaller flippers.
Bottlenose dolphins range from 6.0 to 12.5 ft (1.8 to 3.8 m) in length, with males slightly larger than the females. Adults weigh from 300-1400 lbs (136-635 kg). This is a long-lived dolphin species with a lifespan of 40-45 years for males and more than 50 years for females.
They are known to have a complex communicating system that includes whistles and sounds that resemble moans, trills, grunts, squeaks, and creaking doors. They make these sounds at any time and at considerable depths. Sounds vary in volume, wavelength, frequency, and pattern. The frequency of the sounds produced by a bottlenose dolphin ranges from 0.2 to 150 kHz. The lower frequency vocalizations (about 0.2 to 50 kHz) are likely used in social communication. Social signals have their most energy at frequencies less than 40 kHz. Higher frequency clicks (40 to 150 kHz) are primarily used for echolocation.
They are considered highly intelligent, and have been observed to use tools. In one instance they place a marine sponge on their rostrum, presumably to protect it when searching for food on the sandy sea bottom
Bottlenose dolphins live in temperate and tropical waters worldwide, especially where the water temperature is between 22 and 29 degrees Celsius. In general, the coastal ecotype seems to be adapted for warm, shallow waters. Its smaller body and larger flippers suggest increased maneuverability and heat dissipation. These dolphins frequent harbors, bays, lagoons, and estuaries.
That is why they have a vast presence here in the Bahamas, especially at Bimini where we do most of our sighting trips.
Swimming with the Bottlenose dolphin
They make excellent diving buddies. They show curiosity towards humans in or near water. They often approach divers and encourage a friendly interactions. Like the Spotted dolphin, they have a distinct swimming style, making them an interesting and delightful sight. Here at the Bahamas, they are numerous, so odds are you will be swimming with a lot of Bottlenose dolphins. At the end of the day, we guarantee you will be smiling from cheek to cheek.
Check out our information page on Atlantic Spotted Dolphin.