Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin – Tursiops truncatus

Size: 1.9 – 3.9 m
Key feature: Most familiar dolphin
Behaviour: Acrobatic


The Bottlenose dolphin is the most familiar, appearing in aquariums, the press and on coasts around the globe. It is much larger than the Common dolphin, reaching almost 4 m in length at times. It has a grey colouration on its back, fading to white on its belly with a curved head and stubby beak.


Bottlenose dolphins travel in groups from 1 to 50 individuals. They are very fast and like to ride in the bow or wake of ships. They are capable of impressive acrobatics, leaping high out of the water and somersaulting. Bottlenose dolphins are sociable and are often seen with other dolphins and regularly with Pilot whales.


Bottlenose dolphins have a global distribution in temperate and tropical seas. They occur in distinct populations both coastal and offshore, with the offshore animals being slightly larger. Coastal populations can be spotted around Europe in the Shannon Estuary in Ireland, Cardigan Bay in Wales, Moray Firth in Scotland, the coasts of Devon and Cornwall in England, the Channel Islands, the coasts of Brittany and Normandy, France, the north coast of Spain and throughout the Mediterranean.  They can also be encountered on ferry trips to the Bay of Biscay, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man and in the North Sea.


A major threat to bottlenose dolphins, as well as other dolphins is habitat degradation through increased pollution, rubbish, sewage outflow and sedimentation in marine waters. Coastal bottlenose dolphin populations are particularly vulnerable to this living in such close proximity to cities and towns. Entanglement in fishing gear is also a threat. Bottlenose dolphins are the classic aquarium species; this results in demand for take from wild populations and raises the ethical issue of whether it is acceptable to keep intelligent animals in captivity.