When considering things to do in Key West, taking a snorkeling excursion or glass bottom boat tour is a popular option. These activities provide visitors with the unique opportunity see some of the reef fish and other sea creatures that live in the waters surrounding Key West. To the delight of visitors, one of the most commonly spotted creatures in the local waters is the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Appearance
The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is a mammal named after the extended set of upper and lower jaws that form its snout. There are between 86 and 100 pointed teeth located within their jaws that help to catch their prey. Due to their curved mouths, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin gives off the appearance of a permanent smile! The surfaces of their backs appear in a light gray color, which fades to a lighter shade of gray on their sides. In addition, they have a pink or pale gray belly. The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin's nose is actually the blowhole that is located on the top of its head. These dolphins can reach a length of anywhere between six to 12 feet in length, with a weight ranging from 400 to 800 pounds! The female Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins are slightly smaller than their male counterparts.
Animal Eating Habits
The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin eats a variety of crustaceans, fish and squid to satisfy its diet. They have several different eating habits, including hunting together with other dolphins that work as a team to herd fish into circles. However, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin also hunts food alone by digging in the sand to find small fish. Sometimes, these dolphins may utilize their tale to flip a fish out of water to stun the fish before they eat it. In addition, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins often trail fishing boats to feed off the fish that may have been caught in their nets. The adult Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins consume approximately four percent to six percent of their body weight in food on a daily basis, while a nursing mother may consume approximately eight percent of their body weight in food each day.
Although Bottlenose Dolphins live in tropical and temperature waters throughout the world, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins live virtually anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean. They are the most common species of dolphin found along the eastern coast of the United States, including in Key West. They may migrate seasonally based on variations in water temperature and feeding habits. The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins prefer one of two habitats, either coastal or offshore. The dolphins that prefer the coastal habitats are generally smaller dolphins adapted for warmer and shallow waters, and they frequent bays, estuaries, harbors and lagoons. On the other hand, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins that prefer the offshore habitats are usually larger dolphins that are adapted for cooler waters and deep dives. The larger bodies of these dolphins allow them to conserve heat and better defend themselves against predators.