The common bottlenose dolphin is what comes to mind for most people when they think of dolphins. They are grey all over and do not have any interesting or identifiable markings on the skin. They have a short beak and a triangular dorsal fin. They are average-sized for a dolphin, measuring between 7 and 13 feet long and weighing between 330 and 1,430 lb. The females are usually shorter and lighter than the males of the species.
They live in pods of around 15 dolphins, forming very close social bonds with other members of their pod. There have been sightings of groups of bottlenose dolphins with more than 1000 animals swimming together all at once, but this is incredibly rare.
They eat mainly fish but their diet has also been found to include eels, shrimp and squid. As with all species of dolphin, they do not have strong enough jaw muscles to chew their food, instead they use their teeth to hold it in place before swallowing it whole. They usually gather together in larger pods to hunt for food.
Common bottlenose dolphins are found all over the world in temperate and tropical seas. There are populations which live in the coastal areas close to the shore and other populations which live in the deeper oceans further out to sea. Generally speaking, the offshore pods of common bottlenose dolphins tend to be bigger and darker than those which live by the coast and tend to have relatively shorter beaks and fins. The populations which live further out to sea can migrate distances of over 4000 km and are constantly on the move; whereas those living closer to the shore tend to spend their lives within a smaller radius.
Common bottlenose dolphins are incredibly intelligent and easy to train. They are one of the most common breeds in captivity and have therefore been the subjects of huge numbers of dolphin intelligence studies. They form strong bonds with their human trainers and are sociable around people in general. This makes them the most popular choice for aquarium shows at theme parks, ‘swim with dolphins’ experiences and TV shows and films. The dolphin in ‘Flipper’ was a common bottlenose dolphin. Their television exposure and continual presence in aquariums is probably what has made common bottlenose dolphins the flagship breed of dolphin and the one image which comes to mind when people talk of dolphins all over the world.