The bottlenose dolphin is an aquatic mammal. It’s one of the most common dolphins and is thought among the most intelligent animals on Earth. To communicate, the bottlenose dolphin squeaks, squawks, uses body language, and can perform a wide range of impressive maneuvers.
The bottlenose dolphin prefers tropical to temperate waters and can be found around the world, except the poles. It belongs to the group of whales called the toothed whales. This family also includes marine mammals like the porpoise and the killer whale.
Named for its short, robust beak, the bottlenose dolphin is the largest of the beaked dolphins. It can grow to be 10 to 14 feet long (3-4.26 m) and weigh up to 1,100 pounds (499 liters). It has a lifespan of 45 to 50 years.
The bottlenose dolphin has a smooth, torpedo-shaped body. Its dark grey to black skin is hairless with several strong fins. Its tail fin is extremely powerful. It has two horizontal paddles, called flukes. By powering its tail up and down, like a motor, the bottlenose dolphin swims very quickly. This big swimmer also has two flippers—or side fins—that are used for steering, and a single dorsal fin that helps it stabilize.
Like all mammals, the bottlenose dolphin needs oxygen to survive. However, it does not breathe through its mouth. It has a single nostril, or blowhole, on its head. During dives, the bottlenose dolphin can hold its breath for up to 12 minutes. Between dives though, the bottlenose dolphin swims near the surface. There, it also likes to play.
The bottlenose dolphin is extremely playful. It can leap as high as 20 feet (6 m) out of the water, slap its tail on the water, blow bubbles, and even butt heads. It’s highly social, too. It lives in groups of ten to 30 members. These groups are called pods.
Among its pod, the bottlenose dolphin communicates in a variety of ways. Each dolphin is born with a unique whistle. It uses this as an identifier among other dolphins, like a human name.
The bottlenose dolphin also emits a stream of short, high-frequency clicks. Clicks are produced in the nasal passage and sent out in front of the dolphin, much like a sonar system. Sound bounces off obstacles ahead, such as fish or rocks, and travels back to the dolphin as an echo. This system is called echolocation. It tells the dolphin all sorts of information, like shape, size, speed, distance, and location of the object(s) ahead.
The scientific name for the bottlenose dolphin is Tursiops truncates.