Bottlenose dolphin fact sheet

bottlenose dolphins

The bottlenose dolphin is the most well-known of all the dolphins, especially when it achieved worldwide exposure on the tv series and also film called “Flipper” and as the main attraction of many oceanariums (Reeves et al., 2002). Bottlenose dolphins are extremely social and often inquisitive animals, they can often be seen lobtailing, breaching, bowriding, and playing with fish, seaweed or other objects. Because of their social behaviour and adaptability, they are often kept in captivity.

Their distribution encompasses the coastal and continental shelf waters in tropical and temperate zones (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983; Forcada et al., 2004; Silva et al., 2007). 

There are currently three recognised species: common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (T. aduncus) and Burrunan bottlenose dolphins (T. australis). In the areas where the common bottlenose dolphin inhabits, studies performed have recognized the existence of two different ecotypes, the inshore (coastal) and the offshore and they seem to differ in their morphology, being the offshore form larger-bodied and darker in colour and with smaller flippers (Hersh & Duffield, 1990; Reeves et al., 2002).

In the Azores, common bottlenose dolphins can be seen year-round in the continental shelf waters they usually form small groups of fewer than 20 individuals and can sometimes be seen with other species (Silva, 2007). The composition and stability of these groups also varies, females can stick together for many years, during which time they are visited briefly and occasionally by adult males (Reeves et al., 2002). Contrary to their image as friendly animals, bottlenose dolphins can act aggressively towards other cetaceans (Wedekin et al., 2004). These dolphins are sadly still being hunted and caught to be removed from the wild and into captivity for shows and the entertainment of humans (Reeves et al., 2002).

  • Male: 3.8 m
  • Female: 3.7 m
  • Calf: 1.4 m
  • Male: 650 kg
  • Calf: 30 kg
Global population: c.600,000 (population trend unknown)
Status: Least Concern (IUCN, 2019)
Diet: Fish, squid, shrimp
Teeth: 72  108
Longevity: 25 – 40 years
Breeding age:
• Male: 10 yrs

• Female: 5 – 10 yrs

Gestation: 12 months
Nursing: 12 – 18 months
In other languages
Portuguese: Roaz
Spanish: Delfín mular
French: Grand dauphin
Italian: Tursiops
German: Großer Tümmler
Dutch: Tuimelaar
Swedish: Flasknosdelfin, öresvin
Norwegian: Tumler
Dansih: Øresvin
Finnish: Pullokuonodelfiini
Polish: Delfin botlunos
Russian: Bolshoi delfin, afalina
Bottlenose dolphin bowriding our zodiac boat during a swimming with dolphins trip


Barros, N. B., Parsons, E. C. M. & Jefferson, T. A. (2000). Prey of offshore bottlenose dolphins from the South China Sea. Aquatic Mammals, 26(1), 2-6.

Forcada, J., Gazo, M., Aguilar, A., Gonzalvo, J. & Fernández-Contreras, M. (2004). Bottlenose dolphin abundance in the NW Mediterranean: addressing heterogeneity in distribution. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 275, 275-287.

Hersh, S. L. & Duffield, D. A. (1990). Distinction between northwest Atlantic offshore and coastal bottlenose dolphins based on hemoglobin profile and morphometry. In The bottlenose dolphin (pp. 129-140). Academic Press.

Jefferson, T. A., Webber, M. A. & Pitman, R. L. (2011). Marine mammals of the world: a comprehensive guide to their identification. Elsevier.

Leatherwood, S. & Reeves, R. R. (1983). The Sierra Club handbook of whales and dolphins (No. 599.5 LEA).
Reeves, R. R., B. S. Stewart, P. J. Clapham & J. A. Powell. 2002. Marine mammals of the world. National Audubon Society, Chanticleer Press, New York, New York, USA.

Silva, M. A. (2007). Population biology of bottlenose dolphins in the Azores Archipelago (Doctoral dissertation, University of St Andrews).

Wedekin, L. L., Daura-Jorge, F. G. & Simões-Lopes, P. C. (2004). An aggressive interaction between bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and estuarine dolphins (Sotalia guianensis) in southern Brazil. Aquatic mammals, 30(3), 391-397.

Wells, R.S., Natoli, A. & Braulik, G. 2019. Tursiops truncatus (errata version published in 2019). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T22563A156932432. Downloaded on 25 March 2020.

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