SST - A pod of bottlenose dolphins

Facts About Bottlenose Dolphins: What You Need to Know

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Around the world, dolphins come in different shapes and sizes. The most recognizable species by far are bottlenose dolphins, which permeate pop culture and are more than likely the type of dolphin you picture when thinking of dolphins. You may think that you know all there is to know about them, but there are countless facts about bottlenose dolphins that make them unique.

Right here in Boca Ciega Bay, a population of up to 450 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins thrive. Let’s take a look at some fun facts about bottlenose dolphins and better understand why they’re popular worldwide.

Smarter Than The Average Dolphin

Though humans have seen and interacted with bottlenose dolphins for centuries, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that we gave them a proper scientific name — Tursiops truncatus. The term “bottlenose” comes from the distinct length and shape of their rostrum, or snout. They are so prolific in the world’s oceans that they are typically known as the “common bottlenose dolphin.” However, there is nothing common about them!

Did you know that bottlenose dolphins are among the smartest creatures on Earth? They display advanced problem-solving skills, have complex social structures, and exhibit self-awareness. Marine biologists have demonstrated that some bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror — a feat that may seem mundane but is rather special in the animal world.

One of the more interesting facts about bottlenose dolphins is that their brain-to-body ratio is second only to humans. This means more room to think and learn! There is one key difference between a human brain and a dolphin brain, though: a dolphin’s brain has an area dedicated to echolocation, which is their method of navigating underwater.

An Underwater Circus

SST - Bottlenose dolphins gliding through the water

One of the more fun facts about bottlenose dolphins is that they are incredible swimmers. This may be obvious if you’ve ever seen a bottlenose dolphin leap from the water in feats of aerial acrobatics. Swimming for a dolphin is second nature and something they must master at an early age. Therefore, seeing them easily glide through the water and perform maneuvers straight out of Top Gun should come as no surprise.

Dolphins are highly skilled swimmers and can reach speeds of up to 20 to 25 miles per hour. They are known for their acrobatic displays, often leaping out of the water and performing flips and twists. Even their cruising speed at five miles per hour is faster than most humans can swim when giving it their all. Of course, a bottlenose dolphin’s body is streamlined for swimming, so we can’t exactly feel too bad for ourselves.

Can Dolphins Wear Tool Belts?

You might not be able to spot a dolphin putting up a fence, but you may come across one using a rudimentary tool. In some regions, bottlenose dolphins have been observed using tools. For example, they may place sponges on their snouts to protect them while searching for prey on the seafloor.

The sponge-wielding bottlenose dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, were observed using sponges to dig up prey on the sea floor. This behavior is learned and passed on to the next generation of dolphins — though interestingly, only to the female offspring. This certainly falls into the category of one of the more interesting facts about bottlenose dolphins!

Beware, Fish!

Bottlenose dolphins eat all sea creatures to make up for how much they consume in a single day, up to six percent of their body weight! Their diet includes fish, crustaceans, and squid. While they do, in fact, have teeth, here’s an interesting fact about bottlenose dolphins: they swallow their prey whole and head first! This is to avoid any spikes or spines on the fish they love to eat.

What are some interesting facts about bottlenose dolphins? Their method of hunting! From an early age, bottlenose dolphins hone their skills at hunting. However, they do not need to see with their eyes to catch their prey. Instead, they a technique known as “echolocation.”

Echolocation is a navigational technique used by dolphins during which they emit clicks and listen to the echoes to locate and identify objects in the water. This can be used for traveling or hunting. Dolphins in a group, known as a pod, will often work together to locate prey and, through echolocation, corral them into tight spots to be easily captured.

A Long Life of Swimming and Hunting

SST - Bottlenose dolphins underwater

Just how long can a bottlenose dolphin live? On average, a bottlenose dolphin can live at least 40 years in the wild. Some have even been documented to live well into their sixties! Of course, a dolphin’s life isn’t all that easy with having to navigate the often dangerous ocean waters. Regardless, living several decades is one of the more surprising facts about bottlenose dolphins.

One of the oldest and most well-documented dolphins to have ever lived was Nicklo, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin that lived in Sarasota Bay in Florida. Nicklo was 67 years old when she passed away in 2017. Researchers had documents dating back to 1950, the year of her birth, which confirmed her age.

Fins Like Fingerprints

You may be wondering how researchers can tell one dolphin apart from another. The answer is simple and this has been one of the remarkable facts about bottlenose dolphins — their fins are unique as human fingerprints.

Each dolphin’s fin is unique in shape and size and has distinct markings. Whether those markings be from playtime with other dolphin’s distinctive fin allows researchers to tell one from another. The next time you see a bottlenose dolphin’s fin breaching the water, take note of its features. Perhaps that dolphin already has a name known to humans!

Embark on an immersive underwater educational experience with Sunshine Scenic Tours.

Join Sunshine Scenic Tours aboard the Dolphin Quest, where our marine specialists talk about these unique dolphin facts and much more on a tour of Boca Ciega Bay. You may ask, what are some interesting facts about bottlenose dolphins? We’ve got the answers! Our tours depart daily from John’s Pass at Madeira Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Experience the ultimate learning adventure as you witness these incredible creatures up close and personal. Book your dolphin cruise in Madeira Beach for an educational and awe-inspiring journey you won’t want to miss.

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