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Episode 233: Blown Away by the Bottlenose Dolphin

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Dolphins capture many people’s imagination and love. This is especially true of the Bottlenose Dolphin the most iconic of all the dolphins. This week we highlight the Bottlenose Dolphin and what makes them so unique. Angie especially does a deep dive with their behavior and is well worth a listen.

Bottlenose Dolphin History

Dolphins as a mammal belong to the Order Artiodactyla. These are the “even-toed” ungulates. There are over 400 species of land and oceanic mammals belonging to this Order. The Infraorder is Cetacea, which consists of both the baleen and toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises. Bottlenose Dolphin belong to the Family Delphinidae, which consists of about 42 dolphin and 7 porpoise species. This also includes the 6 “Blackfish” species, which include orcas, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, melon headed whale and the pilot whale. Within Bottlenose Dolphins there are two recognized species and then two subspecies:

  • Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncates)
    • Black Sea bottlenose dolphin (T. t. ponticus)
    • Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin (T. t. gephyreus)
  • Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

The earliest known relatives to dolphins are land-based mammals nearly 56 million years ago. Land mammals started to venture into the world’s oceans about 49 million years ago in around modern day India. Toothed whales and baleen whales diverged about 34 million years ago. The Dolphinidae family emerged about 11 million years ago. The Bottlenose Dolphins earliest ancestor first appeared 5 million years ago.

Bottlenose Dolphin Facts

In the wild these dolphins live about 40 to 50 years. Under human care they can live up to 60 years.  It is interesting that dolphins can be aged by their teeth. Each year their teeth grow just a little bit like growth rings on a tree. So each “annual layer” can be counted to give a close estimate of their age.

While swimming, Bottlenose Dolphins swim at speeds of 3 to 7 MPH (5 to 12 KPH). The maximum speed observed is about 18 MPH (29 KPH). Dolphins are really efficient swimmers due to their body design, skin, and also through “porpoising.” This is when they breach the water while swimming, a very iconic scene for many. When they breach the surface of the ocean, moving their bodies through the air actually creates less drag, thus it is easier for them to conserve energy and constantly swim. While under water, swimming takes up more energy due to the drag created by water.

Bottlenose dolphins do not regularly dive deep to capture their prey of fish, squid, mollusks and other food items. This could be as deep as 10 to 150 feet (3 to 50 meters). The deepest recorded dive for a Bottlenose Dolphin was 1,600 feet (492 meters). It is estimated that a Bottlenose Dolphin can hold its breath for up to 12 minutes.

Bottlenose Dolphin Conservation

The species as a whole are listed as Least Concern. However, in certain areas on the planet, local populations are endangered. Similarly, the Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin is considered endagnered with a population of 600.

Please catch our interview with Pedro Fruet and his work with the Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin.

July 07, 2021
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