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Bottlenose Dolphins in the Beaufort Area

Bottlenose Dolphins are a common sight in the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island area waterways. They usually are in groups, known as pods, of up to 12 members. Sometimes, especially if in danger, many pods will group together as one massive group. When they are seen surfacing, they are actually breathing as they are air breathing mammals. Although dolphins can hold their breath for more than seven minutes, most surface to breath about every 2 minutes. They breath through a blowhole, located on top of their head. Dolphins are protected in all U.S. waters.

About the Bottlenose Dolphin

Dolphins are a very social mammal and will often stay and help other dolphins in trouble or injured. They live about 20-45 years and can grow to 12 feet and weigh up to 1400 pounds, although most average 400-600 pounds, males are larger and heavier than females. They eat fish, squid and crustaceans and consume 15-30 pounds of food a day. They hunt using many different methods. One method is to heard a school of fish, and hitting fish with their fluke (tail fin) causing the fish to be stunned. Another method is hunting as a pack, they school fish into a tight group, and then chase the group towards the shore. In the panic, the dolphins beach the fish and themselves and grab as many helpless fish as possible while wiggling back into the water. Dolphins eyesight is not the best so they rely more on echolocation (sonar) to navigate, find food and to communicate. They can swim up to 35 mph and can dive more than 1,000 feet deep.

From Land to Sea Life and Other Facts

Scientists believe that 50-60 million years ago dolphins may have been land animals. When dolphins sleep, they sleep in a semi-alert state by resting one side of their brain at a time. Baby dolphins can not swim at birth, adults push babies to the surface for their first breath. They learn to swim in about 30 minutes. Dolphins may appear friendly and docile, but they can become very aggressive if irritated, injured or feel threatened.