Featured image from: https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/9420229?size=original, Photo Credit: Jeff K, from https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/9420229
Everyone has heard about how smart dolphins are. A dolphin’s brain is astonishingly complex, almost comparable to that of humans, and relative to their body size, quite large. Through magnetic resonance imaging, their brains have been found to be 4 – 5 times bigger than those of other similarly sized animals.
When you think of dolphins, the first image that comes to mind is probably the bottlenose dolphin (below), one of the most common species. Also known as the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, these marine mammals can be found around the world in temperate and tropical waters. Bottlenose dolphins can grow to a whopping twelve feet long (3.5 meters) and weigh up to 1400 pounds (635 kg). Coastal dolphins are smaller and a lighter shade of grey than their darker, larger relatives that live further out to sea.
Bottlenose dolphins are generalists, meaning they are not picky eaters. Like radar, dolphins use sound, or echolocation, to find their prey. Once located, dolphins may stun fish with a quick strike from the fluke or flipper, a behavior known as “fish whacking.”
Rising temperatures due to climate change may threaten dolphins by changing the distribution of their prey, or by altering how far dolphins need to migrate to feed and reproduce. Additionally, higher temperatures may interfere with dolphins’ ability to thermoregulate, or maintain a constant body temperature. The bottlenose dolphin is listed as a species of “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List since it is widespread and abundant. However, they are protected by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as other regulations from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
To learn more about bottlenose dolphins, check out these links:
This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.
Script authors: Cole Birmingham and Matthew Hyde
Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell
Editor: James M. Fiorendino