Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

(Tursiops truncatus)


Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are smart, social animals, called "bottlenose" because of their short, stubby rostrums, or snouts. A bottlenose dolphin's back is a light to slate gray color, which fades to a pale gray or pink belly. This species' dorsal fin is tall and curves backward. The fluke, or tail fin, is curved with a deep notch in the middle, and their pectoral, or side, fins are pointed.

Because they are mammals, they come to the surface to breathe, usually about twice a minute. Bottlenose dolphins have 86 to 100 sharp, cone-shaped teeth, which they use to catch slippery fish.

Guests can visit Dolphin Discovery as often and for as long as they like. Get a glimpse into the daily life of a dolphin—how they learn, play and interact with each other—and hear from our marine mammal experts about what it's like to care for, teach and build relationships with these incredible animals during narrated training sessions.

A Note from the Caretaker

Dolphins live in complex social groups and use sound to communicate, navigate and hunt.

Quick Facts

Learn more about Atlantic bottlenose dolphins! Did you know that dolphins use tools such as sponges to protect their rostrum (snout) while foraging on the bottom of the ocean?

Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters, often along the coast or in bays, harbors or estuaries. They are common along the Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay in summer.

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins eat fish, squid and crustaceans. They exhibit a range of feeding strategies, including cooperative hunting (working together to herd fish into tight circles), following fishing boats, digging in the sand to uncover food and chasing fish onto mud banks.

Adult bottlenose dolphins can reach 6 to 12 feet in length and weigh 400 to 800 pounds. Full-grown males are slightly larger than adult females.

While bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, some populations are depleted. Coastal populations may be especially vulnerable to habitat degradation, including high levels of pollutants from human activities both on and offshore. In the United States, dolphins are safeguarded by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Bottlenose dolphins are top ocean predators with few predators of their own, although they sometimes become prey for sharks and orcas. They can also become entangled in fishing gear and are still hunted by humans in some parts of the world.

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