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  • Dolphins

    General


    • Dolphins are members of the cetacean family (which also includes whales and porpoises). In UK waters, more than 20 species of cetacean have been recorded.
    • There are more than 30 species of dolphin.
    • Dolphins live in groups (called pods).
    • A baby dolphin is called a calf, and is able to swim immediately from birth.
    • Dolphins are sociable, playful, and acrobatic mammals.
    • Some dolphins can swim as fast as 14 knots, dive over 300 metres deep, and jump up to 6 metres out of the water.
    • Dolphins make two types of noise. 1)clicks which help them build up a "sound picture" of their surroundings (by listening to echoes bouncing off objects). 2) high-pitched squeals and whistles, used to communicate with each other.



    Sighting


    • Two types of dolphin are found in UK waters, the Bottlenose Dolphin, and the Harbour Porpoise.
    • Bottlenose Dolphins are known to live around Scotland, Wales, and off the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
    • The best time of the year to spot them are April to September.



    Species


    Bottlenose Dolphin

    • Scientific Name: Tursiops truncatus.
    • Size: 1.9 to 3.9 metres long, and can weigh up to 275kg. Males usually slightly larger than females.
    • Description: Probably the best known species around the world. Stocky body with a short beak. Variable colour, often dark brown or grey on the back, with a white belly, and light grey on the flanks. They have a large dark dorsal fin.
    • Behaviour: Famously inquisitive, playful and active, often seen leaping into the air and bow-riding. Inshore they live in groups of up to 10, offshore usually up to 25. Sociable mammals, they assist one another and hunt co-operatively, herding schools of fish to the water surface.
    • Movement: Often fairly slow swimmers, traveling about 4 km per hour. However, for brief periods they are also able to reach speeds of over 50km per hour.
    • Feeding: Cephalopods, shrimp, eels, a wide variety of fish.
    • Lifespan: Up to 30 years.

    Harbour Porpoise

    • Scientific Name: Phocoena phocoena.
    • Size: Smaller than dolphins. In fact, the smallest cetacean in UK waters. Females are usually slightly larger than males. Up to 1.9 metres long, weighing up to 85kg.
    • Location: Cool temperature waters.
    • Description: Colour varies, usually a dark grey upper body, and a pale white belly. Flippers, dorsal fins, tail flukes, are dark grey to black. There is a dark stripe running from the mouth to the flippers. They have a blunt snout with no obvious beak. Their body is short and rotund, their dorsal fin small and triangular.
    • Behaviour: Often in groups of up to 10 (larger groups of up to 50 are sometimes spotted). Very shy and retiring. Only show their dorsal fin and back when surfacing the water.
    • Movement: Can reach depths of more than 230 metres. They surface most of the time with a rolling motion, although occasionally they will surface with a vertical motion causing a splash.
    • Feeding: Cephalopods, shellfish, fish. They hunt singly or in small groups.
    • Lifespan: Up to 20 years. Of all cetaceans their lifespan is the shortest. They rarely reach the maximum lifespan, the average lifespan is about 10 years.