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Sanibel & Captiva Area Features

Dolphins

  By: Kristie Seaman Anders

Looking out over the glistening water, one may catch a glimpse of a rolling gray fin slicing through the waves as they surface for air. Continued watchfulness may result in the sighting of one of the islands’ favorite creatures, the bottle-nosed dolphin. Containing no bones, the dorsal or back fin keeps the dolphin moving in a straight line. Each fin is uniquely shaped, allowing scientists to distinguish individuals.

Dolphins can be distinguished from porpoises by their elongated snout, or rostrum, and cone-shaped teeth. As marine mammals, they require a tremendous amount of food in order to maintain their body temperature and metabolism.  It is estimated that an adult dolphin eats about 40 pounds of fish each day.

Our local bottle-nosed dolphin population has some unique characteristics in comparison to the same species found in an open ocean environment. This population is smaller in body size, growing to an average length of 8-10 feet and weighing 800-1,000 pounds. Generally they are all gray with darker highlights and lighter undersides.

Their long, narrow, torpedo shape makes them ideally suited for life in the water. A dolphin propels itself with powerful up and down strokes of its tail. The flippers help the dolphin steer and have bones that look similar to the bones in a human hand. Dolphins have excellent eyesight both above and below water, and even though their ears are barely visible, they have good hearing.

They are very social animals, traveling in social groups of 2-6 called pods, and visit among other groups in the community. Bonds between dolphins can last for years. In the waters of the Gulf and Bay, dolphins easily find sufficient food. Both on the shore or out on the water, be sure to keep a lookout; chances are you will see a bottle-nosed dolphin or two or three or four.

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