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Wild Atlantic Spotted Dolphin encounters.
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WILD SPOTTED DOLPHINS IN THE BAHAMAS

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Stenella frontalis) are considered a near-shore, non migrating species ranging the temperate and tropical coastal waters of the Atlantic. As the name suggests, they are commonly recognized by their spots that develop as they age. The population of wild spotted dolphin in the Bahamas is very fluid both in range and division into smaller groups, making a firm definition of a pod almost impossible. Spotted Dolphins range throughout the Bahamas with certain areas having resident pods, such as Bimini.

bimini dolphin

Mother and Calf

Spotted dolphins lead very complex social lives. They form smaller sub groups within the pod such as; Mothers with the same age calves, mixed sex juveniles and mature males. The group size ranges from 6 to 12 individuals and the overall pod size of about 80. They exhibit numerous social behaviors like companionship, affection, aggression and play. Regardless of the relationship when two dolphin are swimming together they will be in almost constant physical contact with each other.

spotted dolphin

Sharkbait and Sweeting playing with a bandana.

Identification of individual Atlantic Spotted Dolphin of the Bimini nad the Bahamas is central to any research and information gathering on this free-ranging species. It is essential when recording behaviors over a number of years to know who's who. This can prove difficult because the number of spots per dolphin increases with age, like a continually changing fingerprint.
bimini wild dolphin

Older Adult Male Spotted Dolphin.

Spotted dolphins are born without spots, they are dark gray on their backs graduating along their sides to a white belly. At approximately four years of age they begin to get spots. As the years go on, black spots fill in their lighter bellies and then upward, while white spots fill in along their upper sides and back. The older adults become so fused with spots their bellies appear almost black with white specks.

Most individuals that are resident to Bimini we see at least once a week. There are traveling individuals we see a few times a years and some individuals we only see once every couple of years.

swim wild dolphi

Wild Spotted Dolphin Juveniles, 5 to 6 years old.

The spotting and aging relationship, seems to vary greatly from dolphin to dolphin, possibly due to genetic variation. These variations make birth dates and ages difficult to determine precisely. Estimates are made from observations since 1987, photographs since 1980, research papers and published studies on the age and spotting patterns of a similar species of dolphin. We are not sure how long this species lives, but it is guessed to be 40 to 50 years.

     Female Spotted Dolphin reach maturity around 12 years old. Gestation period for a pregnant female is 11 to 12 months. The baby is born within a group of other dolphins. For the first couple of months the newborn stays close to its mother or a baby sitter. The young are always more playful and curios like many other mammal species. Nursing goes on for over two years at which time the baby stays in the general area of the mother but is becoming more independent. The young stay around it’s mother for up to four years but the mother can have a new baby by the third year. Females grow up around their mothers and other females until over 11 years when they become fertile. This is when the females start courtship games with the males and become pregnant. Then they settle to a more serious life of feeding, offspring, and nursing.

wild dolphin

Cherokee and calve.

     Juvenile males occasionally form a tight bond with other juvenile male individuals. Particularly around the age of fertility (approximately 14 years).Young males will be seen in larger groups of males with rough play taking place. Older males will keep some of their tight juvenile bonds. While also forming in groups of older males without the rough play of the younger males.

dolphins bahamas  

Group of male Spotted Dolphin.  

Dolphins have two different feeding behaviors where they feed on a variety of small fish and squid. Day time feeding on small fish that live in the shallow sand bank like Razor Wrasse, Flounder, and Lizard fish. Night time feeding where they move into deep water and feed on Flying fish, Ballyhoo, and Squid.

Spotted Dolphin Facts

Classification:
Class: Mammals
Order: Cetaceans
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Stenella
Species: Frontalis
Can swim up to 30 miles per hour and jump over 20 feet.
Breathing is voluntary, it requires conscious effort.
Hold their breath for four to eight minutes.
Have good eyesight above or below the water.
Have “finger” bones inside pectoral fins.
Echolocation is imaging with sound waves, similar to Bats.
Use whistles, barks and other sounds to communicate
Have resident populations with an average range of 25 miles.
Reach sexual maturity between age twelve and fourteen
Have a gestation period of about eleven months
Calves are born around 30 inches long
Adults reach a length of seven feet and a weight of 250 lbs.
Have a life span of approximately 50 years.

spotted dolphin Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Perfect day on the Bahamas Dolphin grounds and a really high jump.

SPOTTING PATTERN/AGE GUIDE:

Newborn
Newborn - under one year

Two-Tone - 1-5 years
Two-tone - 1-5 years

Spotted 6-11 years
Spotted - 6-11 years

Mottled - 12-17 years
Mottled - 12-17 years

Fused - 18 years plus
Fused - 18 years plus

Group feeding in the sand.


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Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Spotted Dolphin, dolphins Bahamas, dolphin information,Stenella frontalis,