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Image by: Jacqueline RussellImage by: Jacqueline Russell


Interesting facts

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The Atlantic spotted dolphin, like many other species of dolphin, has evolved adaptations to survive in its environment.  The major adaptation is echolocation.  Echolocation informs the dolphin of a certain object's shape, size, density, and other vital details about the object.  Echolocation consists of many different clicks and whistles that can be performed above and below water.  Each specific spotted dolphin has its own specific click that can identify the individual.  Echolocation is used also to view the dolphin's surroundings.  The clicks and whistles bounce off of objects that are essentially in the dolphin's path.  The clicks that bounce off the object head back to the dolphin, where they are "decoded" and the dolphin learns what the object is.  If a dolphin emits a few clicks per second, you would hear a low pitch sound.  If a dolphin emits many clicks per second, you would hear a high pitch sound.  Communication is key to dolphins finding food, avoiding predators, mating, and swimming together.

                                          Image by: Anne Allard

Another important adaptation is what they look like.  The bodies of these dolphins are stream
lined so they can swim extremely fast and swiftly through the water.  Their tail is the strongest part of their body.  It propels them through the water and in turn allows the dolphin to swim, jump, leap, and other acrobatics.  The coloring on these dolphins changes over time.  Calves are born gray with no spots and a white belly.  This coloring looks very similar to their cousin, the Bottlenose dolphin.  Their coloring changes to a two-tone gray with the dark gray on top and the light gray on bottom and still no spots as the calf grows older.  As an "teenage" dolphin, spots begin to appear on the lower part of the body.  As time goes on, lighter spots begin to appear on the upper body.  Older dolphins sometimes have the appearance of a solid color underbelly because the spots tend to almost merge into a solid color.  Both of their eyes are circled in black.  All this coloring adds to camouflage and the ability to almost not be seen.

                                                    Image by: Al Sweeting Jr.

There are many other adaptations this species of dolphins utilizes.  The Atlantic spotted dolphin can hold its breath for seven minutes, on average.  Their feeding patterns have adapted to the way their prey reacts when they arrive.  Atlantic spotted dolphins feed on schools of fish, most often tuna and herring.  In schools, there is always more food than needed, so the dolphins do not go hungry.  The teeth of the Atlantic spotted dolphin grasps the prey and swallows it whole, head first.  The way these dolphins catch their prey goes as follows.  First, the pod spreads out, using echolocation to find a school of fish.  Searching as a pod is much more efficient because more individuals are looking for the prey.  Atlantic spotted dolphins sometimes mix with pods of Bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins when they are looking for food.  Once the prey is found, they herd the fish in a circle and stun them with the fast paced sonar.  Then the Atlantic spotted dolphins feed in groups so that the fish do not get away.  The Atlantic spotted dolphins continue these steps until all have eaten.

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