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Denim Wilson's Bottlenose Dolphin Report
The famous television show series, "Flipper," quickly became a huge phenomenon because of one special bottlenose dolphin. This dolphin was trained to do many kinds of tricks to create a fun TV show for families across the United States. Now, bottlenose dolphins are greatly known for their entertainment value that they bring to children and adults. Even though people love these harmless creatures, they are an endangered species, which means that one day, they could possibly disappear. Not many people know this because they are distracted by their beauty and joy they bring to others. But maybe if Americans realized the problem with these dolphins, they would quickly join a cause to save these beautiful and guiltless mammals.
Bottlenose dolphins are also known as Tursiops truncatus, which means they are the most common type of dolphin in the world. Bottlenose dolphins could also be called Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins because they are most commonly found in the Atlantic ocean [Anonymous B 2012, 1]. These dolphins belong to the Animalia kingdom, while their phylum is Chordata. All dolphins are mammals, so bottlenose dolphins' class is Mammalia. Their order is Cetacea, which whales and porpoises are also part of, and their suborder is Odontoceti. Delphinidae is the family bottlenose dolphins are part of and their genus species is Tursiops truncates [Anonymous 2002, 1]. Bottlenose dolphins are related to all other types of dolphins; they are also related to other sea mammals like whales and porpoises. The first Cetaceans were recognized as far back as 50 million years ago. 11 million years ago, the first dolphins were seen after the Archaeoceti family went extinct [Anonymous 2009, 1].
Over the years, bottlenose dolphins have expanded their habitat to almost every one of the 7 seas. The most common ocean they are found in is the Atlantic Ocean. These dolphins are found in coastal areas and inshore waters. Dolphins enjoy swimming around tropical areas with warm waters of temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees fahrenheit [Curtsinger 2012, 3]. They can be found below 45 degrees in the Southern hemisphere and above 45 degrees in the Northern hemisphere [Connery 2012, 1]. Bottlenose dolphins live in salt water oceans along with other sea creatures. They like areas with tunnels and holes to swim through to play alongside companions.
On average, adult bottlenose dolphins can grow up to 4 meters in length; they can weigh on average 1,430 pounds. A bottlenose dolphins' size also depends on where they live and what activities they do in the water. A bottlenose dolphin's dorsal fin is normally dark grey in color. The sides of a dolphin fade down the sides into a white or pinkish color and in some areas on the mammal, you can find polka dots in a shade of grey. While swimming through the ocean, it is difficult for predators to see it because its belly is white and pink to match the sky and its back is dark to match the ocean floor. A dolphins' skin feels rubbery and smooth because its top layer of skin is thick. A dolphin has a shape somewhat similar to a whale or a shark [Alcock 1993, 1 & 2].
A dolphins' diet consists of foods available to them in the ocean. Dolphins are carnivores, so they mostly eat fish. Smaller sized dolphins eat mackerel, herring and cod while larger dolphins eat bigger animals such as orcas, sea lions, or sea turtles. What a bottlenose dolphin eats also depends on where they live because there could be a shortage of marine life for them to eat in some areas while there is an abundance of food in another area [Khaleel 2008, 1].
While normal fish and other sea creatures, such as sharks, move their tail side to side, a dolphin moves their tails' up and down in a vertical motion. Dolphins use their entire body to whirl through the water helping them swim. A dolphins' body shape helps it swim because it is like a long, tubelike structure. Bottlenose dolphins, on average, will swim 3 to 7 miles per hour, but if they are in a hurry or really trying to go fast, they can go faster than 20 miles per hour [Anonymous D 2012, 1].
All dolphins are mammals, therefore, they reproduce similar to humans. They give birth to live young, which can be difficult in the ocean because predators could ruin the delivery of the baby dolphin, also known as a calf. Male dolphins often "stalk" or follow a female dolphin if it wants to reproduce with them. This is a way to give the female hints to what he wants to do. At the beginning of the reproduction process, the male dolphin will rub its sex organ on the rear of the female for a couple of minutes. This process is known as mating. The female dolphins' pregnancy lasts about 11 or 12 months and the calf is always delivered tail first. After delivery, the calf's first instinct is to feed from the sacs on the belly of its mother [Anonymous E 2012, 1].
When trying to locate food, bottlenose dolphins use a way of communication, called echolocation. These sounds echo throughout the ocean, which makes it easier for the dolphin to catch prey. Another way for bottlenose dolphins to catch food is by using a method called herding. About five dolphins group together and circle around a school of fish or a couple big fish. They swim in circles coming closer together to finally capture the meal and deliver it to their family [Connery 2012, 2].
Bottlenose dolphins have an interesting way of breathing. Being mammals, they of course don't have gills, but they live under water...so how does that work? Well, dolphins can hold their breath underwater for as long as 20 minutes, but they have to get a breath of air once in a while. Bottlenose dolphins pop their bodies just slightly above water to get a breath about every 30 seconds. The difference between humans and dolphins is that we breath through our nose, while dolphins breath through a small whole on their back, also known as a blow hole. Dolphins can hold their breath longer than humans can because of the fact that they have much larger lungs than people do. Another odd factor that scientists are still studying is how dolphins can sleep. One theory is that only one side of their brain stays awake while the other one sleeps, so they are only using half the energy which counts for less breaths [Walt 2012, 1,2 & 3].
For a long time, bottlenose dolphins have been known to be endangered species. Today, however, scientists are questioning whether or not they should still be listed as an endangered species. Dolphins are thought to be endangered because of the environments change and effect on the mammals. For a while, dolphins were hunted and skinned to be sold by fisherman, which has been a major source of animal cruelty campaigns. But now, laws have been passed that have made it illegal to kill or even catch a dolphin of any kind. Their endangered status has also been questioned because of the abundance of bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. Many zoos and marine life museums have been taking these bottlenose dolphins into their supervision [Gupta 2010, 1].
One study done on bottlenose dolphins was started in 1970 when The Dolphin Institute decided to study the behaviors and limitations of bottlenose dolphins. The institute's scientists collected data of the dolphins' sounds, eating patterns, and interactions with other dolphins. They also tested the wild bottlenoses' ability to learn tricks. They first taught a group of dolphins how to swim certain directions when the coach told the dolphin to. They accomplished this task then moved on to the next one. At the end of the experiment in 2004, the institute collected books full of data to use later on. Today, the data is being used in Leeward, Oahu, Hawaii off the coast of Waianae to study bottlenose dolphins that migrated there [Lammers 2002, 1].
Another experiment performed on bottlenose dolphins was by Don White throughout the 1980's. He decided to see what a dolphins reaction would be to a television. "...television as reality or just lights?" is what White hypothesized would be the bottlenose dolphins reaction. He conducted this experiment on five bottlenose dolphins by keeping them in a small tank so they would be unable to swim around and not focus on the television screen. White then put a small TV in front of each dolphin and a two way mirror so the dolphins were unable to see White and his team. The experiment was somewhat successful due to the fact that the dolphins watched the television screen, but yet no reaction. So Don White decided to try doing something with computers. He used the same five dolphins and instead of a TV screen, put a computer. He also taught the dolphins how to work the mouse. Modern technology is now allowing for dolphins to do stuff on computers, like games, all because of Whites experiment [White 2000, 1].
Bottlenose dolphins have a somewhat big impact on my life because I interact with them every year. Dolphins have almost always been my favorite animal because of how close I feel to them. Every year, its a family tradition to go to the Bahamas for vacation. And every summer when we are there, we swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Encounters. It is one of the best feeling in the world to pet a dolphin and just admire its beauty. Like in the video, I have hugged, kissed, and danced with dolphins almost every single year of my life. I have a great time with them and I can not wait to go back this year in 44 days!
Bottlenose dolphins, one of the most beautiful animals in my opinion, are interesting mammals that are similar to humans. Like all kinds of dolphins, they are marine mammals that eat fish and make babies. Now days, however, dolphins are used for humans entertainment by being put in marine life museums, like Seaworld. Dolphins are almost as common as dogs because of how much media attention they get. Bottlenose dolphins are seen in many modern television shows and movies. But just because an animal are so cute, does not mean it is not in harm. Bottlenose dolphins are endangered species and need to be carefully monitored because of their decrease in population. All animals deserve freedom and freedom does not mean keeping an animal locked away in a cage all day.
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Lammers, 2002. <http://www.dolphin-institute.org/our_research/index.htm>.
Walt, 2012. <http://www.kidscruz.com/DOL_BS.HTM>.
White, 2000. <http://earthtrust.org/delphis.html>.