Bottlenose Dolphin
(Tursiops truncatus)

Photo of bottlenose dolphins
Mother and juvenile bottlenose dolphins head to the seafloor. Photo courtesy of M. Herko, OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP).
Close-up of bottlenose dolphin.
Close-up of bottlenose dolphin. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

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Bottlenose dolphin whistle recorded at Mystic Aquarium while the dolphin was isolated in a side pool.
Sound clip provided by Jennifer L. Miksis Olds. Released under Creative Commons License, non-commercial - no derivs.
These dolphins have short beaks called rostrums. Their bodies are gray or charcoal in color with a lighter underside. They can grow to about 3.9 m (13 ft) in length. Bottlenose dolphins are very widespread and commonly found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. They are distributed close to shore and in deep offshore waters. Bottlenose dolphins are often seen in groups of 5-40 individuals, but they can also be found alone or in pairs or trios. Bottlenose dolphins produce a large number of vocalizations, including whistles, buzzes, quacks, pops, rusty hinged sounds, yelps, and clicks. They communicate with whistle vocalizations and find a wide variety of prey by echolocation, a series of high frequency clicks (about 110-130 kHz). These dolphins are capable of combining the echolocation clicks into short series or elaborate trains of sound (see How do marine mammals use sound when feeding?). Individually distinctive signature whistles are thought to be used to broadcast the identity and location of the calling animal in a group (see Individual-specific vocalizations)

  • Au, W.W.L. 1993, "The Sonar of Dolphins." New York: Springer-Verlag. 
  • Connor, R.C., Wells, R.S., Mann, J. and Read, A.J. 2000, "The bottlenose dolphin: Social relationships in a fission-fusion society." Pages 91-126 in Mann, J., Connor, R.C., Tyack, P.L. and Whitehead, H. (eds.). Cetacean Societies: Field Studies of Dolphins and Whales. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 
  • Houser, D.S., Helweg, D.A. and Moore, P.W. 1999, "Classification of dolphin echolocation clicks by energy and frequency distributions." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 106(3 Pt. 1): 1579-1585. 
  • Jacobs, M., Nowacek, D. P., Gerhart, D. J., Cannon, G., Nowicki, S. and Forward, R.B., Jr. 1993, "Seasonal changes in vocalizations during behavior of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin." Estuaries 16(2): 241-246. 
  • Miksis, J.L., Tyack, P.L. and Buck, J.R. 2002, "Captive dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, develop signature whistles that match acoustic features of human-made model sounds." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 112(2): 728-739. 
Additional Resources

  • Whitehead, H. and Connor, R.C. 2005, "Alliances I. How large should alliances be." Animal Behaviour 69: 117-126. 
  • Connor, R.C. and Whitehead, H. 2005, "Alliances II. Rates of encounter during resource utilization: A general model of intrasexual alliance formation in fission-fusion societies." Animal Behaviour 69: 127-132. 
  • "American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet: Bottlenose dolphins." (Link)
  • Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995, "Marine Mammals and Noise." San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 
  • "National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Bottlenose dolphins." (Link)
  • Finneran, J.J., Oliver, C.W., Schaefer, K.M. and Ridgway, S.H. 2000, "Source levels and estimated yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) detection ranges for dolphin jaw pops, breaches, and tail slaps." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 107(1): 649-656. 
  • Buck, J.R., Morgenbesser, H.B. and Tyack, P.L. 2000, "Synthesis and modification of the whistles of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus" Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 108(1): 407-416. 
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, "Voices in the Sea." (Link)