Bottlenose Dolphins

General information
Quick Facts
Order Cetacea
Suborder Odontoceti
Family Tursiops
Species Tursiops truncatus
Status Common
Weight Up to 1500 pounds
Diet A wide variety of sea creatures including fish, squid, octopus, rays, eels, and crustaceans
Size Up to 12-13 feet long
Home World-wide tropical and temperate waters, favoring coastal areas

How Smart Are Dolphins?

This is a very difficult question since we have not developed a reliable method for assessing non-human intelligence. Of all cetaceans, however, the behavior and intelligence of bottlenose dolphins is the most studied, albeit mostly in captivity. One method for estimating intelligence is the ratio of brain size to body size, called the “encephalization quotient.” The bottlenose dolphin’s encephalization quotient is second only to humans and well above the great apes. Other tests held in captivity such as mirror recognition, problem solving, and mimicry all indicate a high level of intelligence. In the wild, bottlenose dolphins live in extremely complex social groups. This complexity also supports the theory of high dolphin intelligence because the young dolphins must learn a great deal about the rules, conventions, cooperative processes and personalities of other pod members in order to be successful.

Offshore vs. nearshore bottlenose

There are two recognized varieties of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Dana Point: offshore and nearshore. The offshore variety are larger and more robust that the inshore variety and exhibit some behavioral differences. If you have been standing on the beach or cliff in Southern California and seen dark gray dolphins surfing in the waves, you’ve seen the nearshore bottlenose. If you were several miles offshore and ran into a pod of very large and playful gray dolphins, then you have seen the offshore bottlenose. On the R/V Sea Explorer, we frequently encounter both varieties. Bottlenose dolphins are a favorite because of the amazing acrobatics that they perform in the wake of the boat. Very powerful animals, they can leap up to 10 feet out of the water and have been known to purposefully splash passengers!