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Bottlenosed Dolphins Notecard



Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

The bottlenosed dolphin is a streamlined swimmer with a gentle nature and grinning mouth. They are found in warm waters worldwide, often close to shore or in bays and lagoons. Dolphins may even venture up larger rivers. Bottlenosed dolphins feed on a wide variety of fish and invertebrates. The dolphins are sometimes found in the company of larger whales and are unafraid of humans, coming readily to ships, riding bow waves with beautiful coordination. They may jump 20 feet clear of the water. Stories abound of dolphins rescuing drowning people and lost mariners.

The intelligence and complex social structure of dolphins and whales have often been dismissed as we cannot readily find images of ourselves in these creatures. However, bottlenosed dolphins have a brain size and structure comparable to our own. Human intelligence is largely measured by the ability to manipulate our environment. Without manipulatory appendages whales and dolphins do not express their intelligence in ways we can understand. But some scientists believe that dolphins may actually be more intelligent than humans. Their cerebral cortex, the center of higher intelligence, is richly developed. We know little about how dolphins use their impressive brains, but certainly they would not have developed if they were not being used. The dolphin mind seems oriented towards perception, relationships, contemplation and playful open-mindedness, the kind of mind which leads to truly creative thinking.

Bottlenosed dolphins have a complex sound apparatus and make a large variety of noises. They produce a rapid clicking used in echolocation, a type of sonar which gives the animal a 3-dimensional detailed analysis of any object. Dolphins may even be able to use echoes for penetrating each others’ bodies to determine emotional and physical states. There is also evidence that they can communicate with other species of dolphins and whales.

Are beings who may look far different from us and who have had a very different evolutionary history be worthy of our friendship? Making friends with the dolphins and whales might be a good start at humanizing ourselves. Perhaps these animals can teach us to live more in harmony with nature.

These dolphins are still common although pollution and overfishing by humans have decreased numbers.

artwork by Dan Burgevin (c) 2003

text by Steve Sierigk