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Atlantic bottlenose dolphin in Honduras

Photo of two dolphins jumping

Margarita and Bailey jumping

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the best known dolphins. They live in warm salt water oceans around the world. They’re sleek, highly trainable, highly intelligent creatures that stay together in close knit social groups called “pods” and have a complex communication system, including sounds for individual names or “signature whistles.”

I heard that the best place to see dolphins in the wild in Honduras is in and around the marine biological reserve, Cayos Cochinos, a group of two small islands (Cayo Menor and Cayo Mayor) and 13 small coral cays lying 19 miles northeast of La Ceiba.

Photo of a mother and baby dolphin jumping

Mother and baby dolphin jumping

To see dolphins in Honduras, we chose to go to the Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences, which offers recreational and educational dolphin programs for people of all ages. There we found a museum, trainers and a pod of over 20 dolphins that’s trained/being trained for public shows and for encounters with humans in waist deep water, as well as while snorkelling and diving.

Our morning at the Institute was amazing. We learned some very cool things about dolphins, like their anatomy, how they breathe, give birth and how calfs (baby dolphins) drink milk underwater. We were also able to watch dolphins up close and be with them in the water and touch them. They feel kinda pliable and gross and they don’t like to be touched in some areas like around their head and their tail fin. In a way, this was better than seeing them in the wild.

Here’s more more of what we learned and what we saw.

Image of a dolphin in the womb

4D image of dolphin in womb, generated from ultrasound images using computer graphics, credit to National Geographic

Dolphin babies are born live (they have bellybuttons!) and they have whiskers when they’re born. Babies nurse for up to 2 years.

Adults can be 7 to 12 feet long and can weigh over 1000 pounds. The size of a dolphin varies with habitat. The ones we saw in Honduras are Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, which are the smallest kind. They were 6 to 8 feet long and weighed in at about 400 / 450 pounds.

Photo of a dolphin doing a tail walk

Fiona the dolphin doing a tail walk

Dolphins are warm blooded and they breathe air. They can dive to depths of up to 300 metres and hold their breath for up to 20 minutes. They sleep with one half of their brain at a time. While one half of their brain’s asleep, the other half is monitoring the surface, etc. so they can take a breath. Should they sleep and go unconscious as we do, they would suffocate or drown. Sleeping dolphins can be seen floating at the surface, with one eye open. After a time, they will close the one eye and open the other one. They alternate like this throughout entire nap.

 

Photo of dolphin with mouth open showing teeth

Margarita the dolphin, showing off her teeth

Bottlenose dolphins have up to 26 pairs of sharp conical teeth on each side of the jaw. Adults may eat as much as 30 pounds of food a day. They capture prey, sometimes as a group effort, and feed on fish, squid and crustaceans. When a school of fish is found, dolphins work as a team to keep the fish close together and maximize the harvest. They also search for individual fish, sometimes ones that live at deeper depths of up to 300 metres.

Dolphins can swim up to 40 km/hr, they have aerodynamic features on their body to facilitate these speeds, but they cruise at around 8 to 10 kliks.

 

Photo of Margarita the dolphin giving my daughter Corinne a kiss

Margarita the dolphin giving my daughter Corinne a kiss

Photo of Margarita the dolphin giving Chloée a kiss

Margarita the dolphin giving my daughter Chloée a kiss

Bottlenose dolphins in Honduras love giving kisses to little Canadian girls who come to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Margarita the dolphin jumping

Margarita the dolphin jumping

Dolphins can produce complex sounds, mostly clicking, moans, whistles, trills and squeaks. They do this for communication among themselves and for navigation under water. When dolphins need to know more about the environment around them, they produce a series of click sounds which, when they bounce back from objects in the water, make echoes. By listening to these echoes, a process known as echolocation, a dolphin can get an image of whatever is nearby – say a rock, boat or fish. When males need to get the attention of females, they can whistle (just like humans) or they can whistle to warn the group of danger.

Dolphins have ears like pinholes but they can hear sounds upwards of 150 KHz, though they generally produce sounds ranging from 1.5 to 11.0 KHZ.

Bottlenose dolphins capture prey, sometimes as a group effort, and feed on fish, squid and crustaceans. When a shoal of fish is found dolphins work as a team to keep the fish close together and maximize the harvest. They also search for fish alone, often bottom dwelling species. An adult may eat as much as 30 pounds each day.

Photo of a smiling bottlenose dolphin in Honduras

Smiling bottlenose dolphin in Honduras

Dolphins are playful and happy, seems that way to me, anyway, probably because of their permagrin look. They’re apparently one of the only animals other than humans who engage in sex for pleasure 😉

Contact me at rob@robwiebe.com

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About Rob Wiebe

Photo enthusiast, music lover

One Response to “Atlantic bottlenose dolphin in Honduras”

  1. Cheryl March 18, 2012 7:45 PM #

    Really nice capture of the two happy dudes in the air.

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