Spotted Dolphins are the friendliest Bahamas Dolphins.
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. Spotted Dolphins range throughout the Bahamas with certain areas having resident pods, such as Bimini. There are numerous different pods through out the Bahamas with some individuals moving between different pods.
The Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) belongs to the Delphinidae family. They are usually 5-7 ft (1.6-2.1 m) long and weigh about 200-300 lbs (93-135 kg). Interestingly,their average lifespan has not been estimated, although it is general knowledge that they live more than 30 years. They have a robust body with a tall, “falcate” dorsal fin located midway down their back. The rounded “melon” is separated from the moderately long beak by a distinct crease. The coloration and patterns vary with age, life stage, and geographic location.
They 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. The older adults become so fused with spots their bellies appear almost black with white specks.
Atlantic spotted dolphins are usually found in groups of fewer than 35 individuals, but have been occasionally seen in larger groups of around 100 animals. Since they are mammals, they need to visit the surface often to replenish oxygen. They generally make dives of about 30 ft (10 m) or less for 2-6 minutes, but are capable of reaching depths of 130-200 ft (40-60 m) and have been recorded holding their breath for up to 15 minutes.
They lead very complex social lives. They exhibit numerous social behaviors like companionship, affection, aggression and playfulness. Regardless of the relationship when two dolphin are swimming together they will be in almost constant physical contact with each other.
They have an unique swimming style. It is often described as acrobatic due to their frequent “breaching”, jumping, and other aerial activities at the surface. They are capable of swimming at very fast speeds and often approach vessels to “bowride”.
This species is found only in the Atlantic Ocean, from southern Brazil to the United States (New England) in the west, and to the coast of Africa in the east. They relish warm waters of the Caribbean and are a common sight here. Although they are widespread, their abundance has still not been estimated by official studies, though the general presumption is that their numbers are potentially large.
SPOTTING PATTERN/AGE GUIDE:Spotted Dolphins are born with no spots, they begin getting spots at about four years old. As the dolphins age, black spots fill in the light underside, white spots fill the darker upper sides and back. The spotting patterns take on a mottled appearance in adults, eventually fusing together on older dolphins. This helps us with age estimates as well.
Newborn Calf - under one year
Two-tone - 1-4 years
Spotted - 5-11 years
Mottled - 12-20 years
Fused - 20 years plus, maybe up to 45 ? years.
Mother and Calf
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.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Identification Project
Identification of individual Atlantic Spotted Dolphin is central to any research on this free-ranging species. It is essential to helping us understand behaviors over a number of years by knowing who's who.
The identification and cataloging of each individual is done by photographs of both sides of the dolphin.
"Chub" in 1992
"Chub" in 2021
Sharkbait in 1996
Sharkbait in 2021