The Bottlenose Dolphin
The Bottlenose Dolphin,is most highly studied of all whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in captivity. The bottlenose dolphin possesses a remarkable acoustic sense with which it sees using sound, similar to bats.
The bottlenose dolphin inhabits a world illuminated not by light, but by sound. Using clicks and whistles it can communicate, navigate and find prey with uncanny ease. A large oceanic dolphin, the bottlenose has a long, robust body and a characteristic stubby, bottle shaped beak.
Bottlenose dolphins inhabit coastal and offshore waters in cold temperate and tropical oceans and seas. The dolphin occupies a wide variety of coastal habitats from rocky inlays and lagoons to reef lined shores. The bottlenose will also enter estuaries and the lower reaches of large rivers. Coastal dolphins develop intimate knowledge of the habitat, helping them find prey and avoid predators.
The bottlenose dolphin is a versatile predator that varies hunting techniques to suit local conditions and food availability. In the dark or muddy waters in which it feeds, the dolphin uses sound to find prey. Individually, the bottlenose dolphin is an opportunistic and innovative hunter. When hunting cooperatively, groups of dolphins first fan out to locate a shoal of dish. They then attack from below, driving the fish against the inescapable barrier of the surface.
The large and muscular bottlenose is a powerful swimmer that often ride the bow wave of ships. It can achieve bursts of speed up to 15 mph. Dolphins and whales drive themselves through the water with up and down strokes of their tails. The dolphin’s skin cells also contain oily secretions, which lubricate its passage through the water.
The bottlenose typically lives in social units of 2-6 dolphins, but these groups may join to form schools numbering more than 1,000 dolphins. Within each group there appears to be a hierarchy. Dominant males have greater access to breeding females. Mating usually occurs in spring and summer. The male swims up from below and at right angles to the female. This lasts from 2 to 10 seconds. The birth of the calf initiates a bond with the mother that lasts up to six years, at which time the bottlenose calf approaches sexual maturity.
Although the bottlenose remains common, some coastal populations, such as those in the West Indies, West Africa have been reduced by commercial whaling and fishermen seeking to preserve fish stocks. Others have been adversely affected by pollution.