Bottlenose dolphins are one of the fastest animals on Earth and the ones off the coast of Florida have invented a new way of hunting their elusive and fast swimming prey. Swimming in ever decreasing circles the dolphins stir up the mud from the sea floor with their tails, and trap schools of fish inside the resulting ring of mud. The panicked fish jump out of the water away from the ring and straight into the waiting mouths of the other dolphins. Developing this sort of advantage over other groups of bottlenose dolphins may give this population the edge in the battle for survival of the fittest.
The bottlenose dolphin has a grayish skin tone that varies from dark to light gray starting at the dorsal fin and ending near the lower body. The under-body is much lighter in color and is closer to white than gray. They have slim aero dynamic bodies and a short beak with conical-shaped teeth, which helps these dolphins find and capture various prey. As far as size goes these dolphins can reach lengths between 6.5 – 13.5 ft and weigh anywhere from 300 – 1,400 lbs. when fully matures. Unlike other species of dolphin the male is typically larger and heavier than its female counterpart.
These dolphins can often be found living in warm tropical/sub tropical environments in waters above 50° F.
They can be found both in coastal and offshore waters in areas such as South Africa, Australia, Cape Cod, Chile, Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, Nova Scotia, Norway and Southern California and Florida in the United States.
They are also found in various parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
While these dolphins do possess teeth they only use their teeth to grab their prey and swallow their food whole.
During hunting periods several dolphins can often be found working in groups pushing the fish towards the shore and circling or entrapping them so that they can have the best opportunity of successfully capturing their prey.
A group of dolphins may work together to herd the fish into a small ball or corner then take turns darting in and eating their immobilized prey.
They may also use their tail or flukes to hit and stun the fish, so that they will be easier to capture.
While they sometimes hunt in groups these dolphins may also be found hunting alone and both the hunting methods and number of dolphins found hunting in a pod can vary depending on the dolphin’s habitat and environment.
In addition to using sophisticated hunting strategies these dolphins are also equipped with echolocation, which allows them to detect where their prey is, alerts them of threats and helps them avoid collision with nearby objects.
DOLPHINS AND HUMANS
Bottlenose dolphins are known to be boisterous and outgoing when in contact with humans and may display curiosity or excitement when communicating with people.
These marine mammals are highly intelligent and can learn complex tricks and behaviors that are taught to them by trainers.
They’ve even been featured as the primary attraction at marine shows and have played specialized roles in the military where they help soldiers locate mines and rescue people who have been lost at sea.
Their high level of intelligence has been so interesting to humans that scientists have been trying to devise a way to communicate with dolphins through technology and hope to one day be able to have a conversation with these amazing marine mammals.
From a cultural perspective dolphins have been popularized by movies and tourism, considered angelic beings by certain cultural societies and considered the reincarnation of family members through the beliefs of various groups.
Since their discovery humans have been attracted to the bottlenose dolphin as these dolphins have been attracted to us.
These dolphins are known to face threats from poachers and dolphin hunters looking to sell their meat to stores and restaurants for consumption by humans, used for crab bait and killed in order to maintain fish supplies since dolphins may make it difficult for fisheries to work effectively at capturing fish due to large stocks of dolphins eating the fish and/or attacking fish in fishing nets.
Bottlenose dolphins also face threats from accidentally being captured in fish nets intended for fish.
In these instances a dolphin may mistake a balled group of fish for easy prey and run right into the fishing net.
Because dolphins are mammals they must come to the surface for air, so there is a good chance that they could drown when caught in a fishing net, which prevents them from getting adequate oxygen to the lungs.
Most species of dolphin can only hold their breath for a few minutes (5 – 15 minutes) before they need to come up for air.
Recently extreme tourism has also been noted as a threat due to large quantities of people and boats in the ocean, which could cause collisions with the dolphins or even contribute to water pollution.
In terms of natural threats these dolphins may face occasional threats from sharks or groups of hungry killer whales as well as getting sick from natural diseases and parasites.