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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

The 1960's television show "Flipper," as well as oceanariums that care for captive dolphins, have made the bottlenose the most recognized dolphin species in the world. In fact, bottlenose dolphins inhabit temperate and tropical waters of almost every ocean, including the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Their popularity and anatomical "smile" cause many people to think dolphins are merry, friendly creatures eager to interact with humans. In some respects this is true. Dolphins are highly social animals, and in captivity, they tend to be eager to interact with humans and are more easily trained than other animals. Even in the wild, there have been many documented accounts of dolphins seeking human companionship, but generally speaking, they far prefer the company of their own kind. Why some dolphins separate from their group and interact with people is still a mystery.

Bottlenose dolphins are much bigger than spotteds and duskies. At about ten feet long and 600 pounds, dolphins can be quite aggressive with one another and with other species, including humans. Several people have been injured and one person killed by a dolphin, but the blame often falls on the humans who don't understand how their actions can be interpreted as aggressive by the dolphin. It's interesting to know that the "killer whale," the largest of all dolphins, has never been known to kill a person. They are the top predator in the oceans, but have not harmed people.

While swimming with dolphins is illegal in U.S. waters, "swim with dolphin" programs are abundant and becoming more popular in other locations. Scientist Kathleen Dudzinski spent this last year in Japan studying bottlenose dolphins in an area that's becoming more popular with tourists as a "swim with dolphins" destination. Behaviors and life cycles, as well as their feeding and rest patterns, so that we don't disrupt their lives, or cause injury to dolphins or ourselves.


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