Bottlenose dolphins are the most well-known and common type of dolphin. They feature front flippers, flukes and a dorsal fin, which they use for swimming. The dorsal fin, positioned near the middle of the back, is tall and curved. These dolphins are usually black to a light gray, with white bellies, which are sometimes slightly pink. This coloring makes it hard to see them, from both above and below. Sometimes they have spots on their bellies and a stripe from the eye to the base of the flipper. These dolphins have 18 to 28 conical shaped teeth in each side of each jaw.
The Common bottlenose dolphin is found in all of the world's seas, both tropical and temperate. Some populations remain in one area, while others migrate extensively. Some populations live are offshore and some inshore. In California, from Cabo San Lucas to just north of San Francisco, coastal common bottlenose dolphins live close to the shore.
The bottlenose dolphin is a very social animal. Typically living in groups ranging from just a few individuals to more than 100, they form several types of groups, which include nursery groups, juvenile groups, and groups of adult males. They engage both in aggressive behavior, such as biting, ramming, and tail slapping; and behavior of bonding and acceptance behavior, such as rubbing and stroking. They emit a vast range of squeaks, grunts, and whines, which are categorized in three groups: echolocation clicks, whistles and pulse sounds. Dolphins also communicate through touch.
A bottlenose dolphin usually eats a wide variety of food including crustaceans, fish, and squid. Each day an adult can eat 15 - 30 pounds (6.8 - 13.5 kg) of food. They do not chew their food with their teeth. Instead, they swallow it whole and head first in order to avoid spines that feature on many of the fish they like to eat.
Bottlenose dolphins are polygamous. Breeding can take place at any time of the year, but occurs mostly in the spring, with a smaller peak in the fall. The gestation period lasts for about 12 months, after which one calf is born. A female nurse until the calf reaches 18 - 20 months. These dolphins give birth every 3 to 6 years, females usually falling pregnant soon after weaning, and they can continue to give birth until their late forties. The calves can be born any time during the year, with most born during the warmer months. Females are usually reach sexual maturity at an age between 5 and 10 years, and males between 8 and 13 years.
Climate change is the main threat to bottlenose dolphins, due to the warming of seas and oceans, sending dolphins to colder waters outside their habitual ranges. As these dolphins are coastal creatures, they are affected by pollution, heavy boat traffic, and habitat destruction. Humans are their largest predators. Hunting still occurs in Peru, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of the world. Fishing operations can injure or drown dolphins when they get accidentally caught in gear and nets.
According to IUCN Red List, minimum world-wide estimate for Common bottlenose dolphin is 600,000 individuals. Populations have been estimated for a few specific areas: northern Gulf of Mexico - 52,000, eastern coast of North America - 126,000, eastern tropical Pacific - 243,500, Hawaii waters - 3,215, coastal California waters - 323, Japanese waters - 168,000, western European continental shelf waters - 12,600, Mediterranean Sea - fewer than 10,000, Black Sea - at least several thousands. Overall, currently Common bottlenose dolphins are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Dolphins have an important part the ecosystem in that they are top-level predators, controlling populations of fish and squid and keeping the ecosystem balanced and healthy. The presence of bottlenose dolphins indicates a healthy marine ecosystem.