Atlantic bottlenose dolphins – picture the famous “Flipper” – are common summer visitors to the salty waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Although they are often thought to be associated with the dolphin fish (like mahi mahi), Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are marine mammals - small-toothed whales, actually – who feed on the Bay’s catfish, eel, menhaden, shrimp, crab and squid. They can eat between 12 to 15 pounds of fish a day!
Bottlenose dolphins are fast swimmers that can dive more than 1,000 feet and jump up to 20 feet out of the water. They are very social animals who usually live in small pods of up to 12 animals but will often group together to form congregations of hundreds of dolphins.
They have long, beaklike snouts, a sickle-shaped dorsal fin, sharp teeth and one blowhole. They can reach lengths of up to 12 feet, weigh between 300 and 400 pounds, and live to be 35 years old.
Those found in our Bay migrate or move north in the spring and south in the fall, ranging from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to being found in the lower Chesapeake, Atlantic bottlenose have been sighted along the western shore near Annapolis and Baltimore. They’ve even been known to travel up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.
See them up close at the National Aquarium in Baltimore www.aqua.org
Close-up photo of a Common Dolphin
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