Bottle-nose Dolphins are the most popular dolphin. The surprising thing is most people don’t know that, even if they have a picture of one on their wall. They are often called “regular dolphins.” But there is no such thing as a “regular dolphin.” The bottle-nose dolphin is the most well known and popular.
Bottle-nose dolphin isn’t the only name for this playful dolphin. Other names include Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin, common bottle-nose dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, gray porpoise, black porpoise, gray dolphin, black dolphin, and cowfish. I recommend using the names bottle-nose dolphin, Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin, common bottle-nose dolphin, gray dolphin or bottlenose dolphin. This is because they’re not porpoises or fish. They’re dolphins. And yes, there is a difference between a dolphin and a porpoise. I personally like to call them gray dolphins because I think it fits them and sounds nice. But I’ll use the name bottle-nose dolphin in this post because it’s the most common name and I don’t want to cause confusion.
Bottle-nose dolphins may not appear colorful like other dolphins, but if you look closely you’ll notice that they have three different colors stacked on top of each other. The first color is normally dark gray. This stretches across the top of the dolphin from the melon to just before the flukes. The next color is normally medium gray. This covers everywhere else except the lower jaw and stomach, which can be one of three different colors; white, dirty white, or pale pink. It’s normally dirty white. This color covers the lower jaw and stomach
Bottle-nose dolphins are most commonly found in warm tropical and subtropical waters. They can also be found in colder Pacific waters too.
Interestingly enough bottle-nose dolphins actually have names. I don’t mean people naming captive dolphins, I mean wild dolphins name themselves. Why? To find each other. Sometimes baby dolphins (called calves) will stray from their mother and get lost. The mother dolphin will literally call the calf’s name. If the calf can hear the mother it will answer back and they can find each other. Sometimes even adult dolphins can get separated from their pod so they’ll call each others name until they can find each other.
Bottle-nose dolphins are very smart. They learn quickly and that’s one reason why they’re so common in marine parks. They can also learn sign language. Even though they can’t respond, we can tell them to do things. You may notice at parks such as Sea World or Marineland how the trainers will do motions with their hands and the dolphins will do something in response.
Bottle-nose dolphins can do something amazing with sound. Starting at the blowhole, a bottle-nose dolphin will send out continuous sharp clicking sounds. These sounds travel through the melon which amplifies them. Then the sound travel through the water until they hit the nearest object. As they bounce back to the dolphin the sounds penetrate the lower jawbone and then to the ear. A dolphin can tell what the nearest object is and how far away it is just by sound! This is called echolocation. Dolphins may use echolocation when hunting or in murky or dark waters.
Bottle-nose dolphins can communicate with one another. They have different sounds they make including whistles, clicks, groans, chirps, and even screams. These sounds seem to mean something. There is still the possibility that these sounds are just sounds like a dog’s bark and don’t really mean anything. But there is proof that dolphins actually have their own language and that the sounds do mean something. For instance, two dolphins at a research place for dolphins in Hawaii were asked to do any trick they want but they had to do it together. The dolphins went underwater and, looking at each other, began making these sounds back and forth as if they were deciding what to do. Finally at the very same second the dolphins leaped out of the water in the exact same way and landed in the water at the exact same second too. It was as if the dolphins were talking to each other and then decided they would do that trick. It’s really amazing!
People and Dolphin Communication
People cannot talk with dolphins for right now. We don’t know what they’re saying or if they’re even saying anything. But scientists are trying to build a computer that understands dolphin talk. If scientists ever do succeed, we may be able to talk with dolphins. And if I hear they’ve succeeded I’ll post it on my news page right away!
Not a fish
Dolphins (like all whales) are not fish. There are a lot of differences. If you look at one of my dolphin pictures and then one of a fish you may notice a lot of differences. Here are a few:
- Dolphins have one fin while fish have more than one.
- Fish can breath the oxygen from the water while dolphins can only breath the oxygen from the air.
- Fish swim by moving their tails side-to-side while dolphins move theirs with and up-and-down motion.
Not a porpoise
Dolphins aren’t porpoises either. There are differences there too. They are separated in a different group from dolphins. But they are very closely related, and both the ocean dolphin, river dolphin, and porpoise group are all part of the six toothed whale groups. Here are some differences between a dolphin and a porpoise:
- A porpoise’s fin is triangular with normally no curve in the back while a dolphin’s is less triangular and curved.
- Porpoise teeth are round and “stubbier” while dolphin teeth are triangular and pointed.
Other good bottle-nose dolphin resources
The movie Dolphins: Tribes of the Sea by Explore the Wildlife Kingdom has lots of good information on just about everything about bottle-nose dolphins.
The dolphin page on the Sea World website has good information on many different topics about bottle-nose dolphins
The book Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises by Mark Carwardine has good information on the behavior, range, and mainly identifying bottle-nose dolphins.
Several of the Blue Planet series have good information on the natural behavior and life of a dolphin.
Dolphins and Porpoises by Zoobooks has good information on just about everything on bottle-nose dolphins.
Guide to Marine Mammals of the World by the National Audubon Society has nice information on bottle-nose dolphins.
The movie Dolphin Tale has good information on the rescuing and life of a bottle-nose dolphin.