All About Dolphins

Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins

Jumping dolphinPacific Bottlenose Dolphins are warm blooded, air-breathing mammals that inhabit temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.  They belong to the group of toothed whales whose scientific name is odontocetes. Pacific bottlenose dolphins can grow to be up to 10 feet long and weigh from 300-650 pounds.  They have a sleek, streamlined body with forelimbs, called pectoral flippers, that they use to steer, and flukes (lobes of the tail) that they use to propel themselves forward.  In general, the color of Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins is a nondescript gray on the back fading to white on the belly and lower jaw.  This coloration, a type of camouflage known as counter shading, helps conceal a dolphin from predators and prey.

Thought to be one of the most intelligent and beautiful creatures in our oceans and rivers, dolphins also take on a persona that is adored worldwide. We see them jumping, playing, and even hear them laughing as they have fun in the ocean. Dolphins are some of the most highly intelligent creatures on earth. These warm-blooded mammals belong to a group of mammals called Cetaceans which also encompass all whales. Dolphins are referred to as "toothed whales" or Odontocetes differentiated from Baleen whales which have horny plates connected to their upper jaw.

Dolphins come in many colors from the black and white Killer whale (which is actually in the dolphin family) to the False Killer whales and Pilot whales which are almost solid black. There are 67 total species of dolphins; 32 of them oceanic with River dolphins, Sperm whales, Beaked whales, Beluga, Narwhal and Porpoises rounding out the other 35 species. Porpoises are often confused with dolphins, but while dolphins have rounded interlocking teeth, porpoise teeth are squared. Pacific Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) are the variety most commonly observed in and around the Pacific area.

Migration and Distribution

Bottlenose dolphins inhabit temperate and tropical waters throughout the world - from deep ocean waters to harbors, bays, lagoons, gulfs and estuaries. 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. The offshore ecotype seems to be adapted for cooler, deeper waters, with a larger body that helps conserve heat and defend against predators.

Variations in water temperature, migration of food, fish and feeding habits account for the seasonal movements of some dolphins to and from certain areas. Some coastal animals stay within a limited home range (an area in which individuals or groups regularly move about during day-to-day activities). Home ranges may overlap although most dolphins undergo seasonal movements, probably as a response to variations in water temperature and food availability.

The worldwide population of Bottlenose dolphins is unknown. Specific Bottlenose dolphin populations have been approximated in a few areas, and based on those calculations the Bottlenose dolphin population worldwide is estimated to be near 125,000. Although protected by laws in many countries, Bottlenose dolphins are not endangered.