The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is one of 24 whale and dolphin species in Irish waters. The west of Ireland in particular, is thought to be home to one of the highest bottlenose dolphin concentrations in all of Europe.
With the exception of orcas, the bottlenose dolphin is larger than the other dolphin species found in Irish waters. Distinctive characteristics of the bottlenose dolphin are its short, stocky beak, prominent dorsal fin and grey coloured back and sides.
When fully grown, bottlenose dolphins can range from 2 to 4 metres in length, weighing between 150kg to 650kg. Bottlenose dolphins in Ireland and the UK tend to be larger than those that live in warmer waters. This is due to the need for thicker blubber to thrive in the cold water temperatures.
Bottlenose dolphins are expert hunters. One of their primary hunting tools is echolocation. Producing a series of rapid clicking noises, the dolphin is able to collect data from objects in the water, including location, size and shape of their prey. Bottlenose dolphins feed primarily on bottom dwelling fish such as plaice and skates as well as squid and crustaceans.
Bottlenose dolphins have a longer gestation period (12 months) than us humans. Generally, these dolphins give birth to single offspring, however, it is not entirely uncommon to see twins.
As of a 2012 report, bottlenose dolphins have been listed on the IUCN redlist as ‘Least Concern’, citing the abundant and widespread population. The IUCN does, however, acknowledge that there are dangers to local populations, such as super trawlers and habitat destruction.
Hybrids: In both the wild and in captivity, bottlenose dolphins have been known to breed successfully with other species. One of the most notable examples of this is the ‘Wolphin’. A wolphin is a rare hybrid of a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Two of these wolphins exist in captivity, while there are reports of wolphins existing in the wild.
Celebrities: The bottlenose dolphin is one of the most famous marine mammals in the world. Most TV and film appearances of dolphins are played by bottlenose dolphins, such as the famous TV show, Flipper. An Irish celebrity bottlenose dolphin can be found in Dingle, Co. Kerry, named Fungi.