Bottlenose Dolphin Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

This lesson will teach you about the graceful, intelligent bottlenose dolphin! Learn where they live, how they hunt, and how they use their large brains in the sea.

Bottlenose Dolphin Basics

Bottlenose dolphins are marine mammals, meaning that they live in the ocean but breathe air at the surface. They have lungs, just like humans, and inhale and exhale through a blowhole at the top of their heads. Bottlenose dolphins can grow up to 8-12 feet in length, and they often weigh about 300-600 pounds. They have streamlined gray bodies and powerful tail fins, called flukes, that propel them through the water.

The bottlenose dolphin uses its powerful tail fluke to leap out of the water.
jumping dolphin

An interesting thing about the bottlenose dolphins is its big brain. These intelligent animals use complex sounds to identify themselves and communicate with other members of their social groups. Trainers have observed them inventing and mimicking patterns of jumps and spins. They are also one of the few animals that recognize themselves in the mirror. Even the smartest dog cannot do that!

Bottlenose Dolphin Life Cycle

Adult females give birth to one calf every 2-4 years. The mother nurses the calf until it is about one year old. Young females tend to stay with the same social group, even after they stop nursing. The young males will move into their own bachelor groups.

A dolphin calf swims with its mother.
dolphin calf

Bottlenose dolphins live an average of 30-50 years. They have few predators but are sometimes attacked by orca whales and sharks.

How Do Bottlenose Dolphins Live?

Bottlenose dolphins live in organized social groups. Adult females and young dolphins live separately from the adult males. The males travel in pairs or trios known as bachelor groups. A group of dolphins is known as a pod. Migrating dolphins will travel in pods of several hundred animals.

Although most bottlenose dolphins live close to shore, some travel farther out to sea. They prefer mild to warm ocean temperatures. Some dolphins migrate to different places throughout the year, while others stay in one place. Bottlenose dolphins are known to travel into bays and rivers when hunting.

How Do Bottlenose Dolphins Hunt?

Bottlenose dolphins eat plenty of fish, and they will also eat shellfish and squid. Dolphins are very skilled hunters and will work together to trap prey, even driving fish into shore.

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