Bottlenose Dolphin Research

Bottlenose Dolphin Basics

bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is a marine mammal belonging to the Order Cetacea, a taxonomic group that includes whales, porpoises and dolphins. It is probably the best-known cetacean and is found in aquariums and oceanariums around the world. The bottlenose dolphin was most likely introduced to you by the popular film “Flipper,” and when someone uses the term “dolphin” he or she is most likely referring to the bottlenose dolphin. 


Most bottlenose dolphins have a gray robust body with a short to medium length beak and a large falcate dorsal fin. The bottlenose dolphin can be found around the world at tropical and temperate latitudes. It is found in coastal waters off of both the east and west coast of the United States, and in some areas, such as Florida, it is often possible to see the dorsal fins of a whole group of bottlenose dolphins from the beach.


Some bottlenose dolphins migrate seasonally while others remain resident in one particular area year round. In Sarasota Bay the 150 or so bottlenose dolphins are year-around residents with a foraging range of about 125 km2, but occupy different parts of Sarasota Bay throughout the year, most likely in response to varying prey availability.

bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

The bottlenose dolphin lives its entire life in the water but, because it is a mammal, it must surface regularly to breathe. The male bottlenose dolphin has a typical lifespan of between 40-45 years and females have been reported living up to 50 years. Bottlenose dolphins can reach body lengths between 6 ½ and 12 feet and they can weigh between 570 and 1,000 lbs when full grown.


Bottlenose dolphins can usually be found in fluid groups of 2-15 individuals. A pregnant female carries her single calf for exactly one year before giving birth, then nurses the calf for 3-5 years or longer. Bottlenose dolphins eat fish, squid and other marine animals and often hunt cooperatively. Some bottlenose dolphins feed near the surface, others in the shallows, and still others at great depths, the depth depending on the nature of the habitat and location of prey. 


Information from

**Reeves, Randall, et al. National Audubon Society, “Guide to Marine Mammals” First Edition, 2002.