Probably the best known Dolphin species they can be identified by their size, dark grey back, paler sides and underneath and tall curved or falcate dorsal fin. They also have a very prominent beak, to which they owe their name. One of the larger Dolphin species, they can reach lengths up to 3.9m in the UK waters, however other populations can be a lot smaller, the average size of the animals in Florida, for example is only 2.5m.
An inshore species they can regularly be seen in harbours and around headlands. Known for their playful nature they often approach boats to bow-ride or can be seen leaping out of the water. They are usually seen around the Hebrides in groups of between 3 and 10, however larger groups are not uncommon. Found in temperate and tropical waters Bottlenose Dolphins are at their Northern limit around the Hebrides. Using photos taken of the Bottlenose Dolphins in the Hebrides, it has been concluded that there are 2 distinct populations, one of up to 40 animals that inhabit the waters around the Inner Hebrides from the Mull of Kintyre up to the Isle of Skye, whereas the second smaller population are seen to stay around the sound of Barra.
Their diet consists of a variety of fish species, plus squid, cuttlefish and crustaceans. They can also be aggressive towards other cetaceans species and on the East coast of Scotland they have been recorded killing a Harbour Porpoise, however research suggests it is unlikely that the Dolphin would then eat the Porpoise, but that that they do it to reduce competition for food.
There are two other areas around the UK where there are resident populations of Bottlenose Dolphins; these are the Moray Firth on the east coast of Scotland and Cardigan bay in Wales. However the estimated total UK population is only around 300 individuals, and with being at the top of the food chain and living in areas where they will come into contact with humans, Bottlenose Dolphins are susceptible to bioaccumulation of chemicals, accidental capture in fishing nets and other detrimental practices. Therefore there is a lot of research being carried out into their habits and population numbers.
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