The Surfing Dolphins Collection

A collection of underwater footage featuring Bottlenose Dolphins shot in the warm waters of South Africa's Garden Route.

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About the Species

Common bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide. They are not picky, as they inhabit a wide variety of warm and tropical environments, including bays, harbours, estuaries, gulfs, and both in deep and shallow waters. Unlike mysterious, solitary, and deep swimming species (like white sharks), dolphins are coastal dwelling and extremely friendly. This, and their most adored, intelligent personalities, is why they are one of the most well-studied and beloved marine mammals across the globe.

Biology

Physical Traits
  • In terms of size, the average length of a bottlenose dolphin ranges from two to three metres, and the average weight varies from 150-250 kg. Males tend to be bigger than females, and those living inshore are usually smaller than dolphins inhabiting offshore waters.
  • In addition to their rubbery grey, delicate skin, their most notable physical trait is their bottle-resembling snout (hence their name).
Reproduction and Lifespan
  • Bottlenose dolphins live on average to 40 years, with females living significantly longer than males. 
  • Depending on the pod or population, dolphins usually reach sexual maturity (ability to produce) at about 10 years old.
  • Females have a gestation period (pregnancy duration) of about 12 months, and they typically give birth every 4.5 years, giving extensive care, time, and resources to their young once they are born.

Behaviour

Communication

  • A dolphin is highly communicative, socialising by playing, whistling, clicking, rubbing, breeding and occasionally displaying aggression. As well, dolphins initiate friendly interactions with other species, including humans.
  • Additionally, they are clever and have the highest social intelligence in all the animal kingdom (aside from humans). Studies show they can recognise individuals, despite being separated for decades.

Predator and Prey

  • Dolphins feed on various species, including pelagic fish, shrimp, crabs, and squid. Their hunting strategies vary as well, likely to facilitate intellectual stimulation. 
  • They often hunt in groups and communicate strategically to trick, corner, herd, trap, and secure their meals.
  • Due to their agile swimming and incredible wits, dolphins have few natural predators. However, juveniles and smaller dolphins have reason to fear predatory, larger shark species such as great whites, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and dusky sharks.

Viability

Threats and Climate Change

  • Since common bottlenose dolphins inhabit coastal areas, they are highly exposed to human impact and interactions. One of the most significant conservation concerns is the impact of dolphin tourism which unfortunately impacts dolphins’ sleep, migration, and foraging patterns. 
  • Historically, their primary threat was humans, who hunted them for meat and oil. They are not legally pursued today, but they face other pressing threats, such as pollution and biotoxin accumulation, bycatch, fishing gear entanglement, and coastal habitat destruction.

Conservation Status

  • In a positive light, the IUCN lists common bottlenose dolphins under the list of Least Concern, meaning they are not foreseen to face extinction in the near future. 
  • Although of the least concern, many bottlenose pods face individual threats (such as those mentioned above) that induce unfavourable, unhealthy conditions that may have repercussions for future populations.

Current Research

  • Understanding dolphins and their complex social structure is incredibly fundamental. Scientists are analysing regional differences in dolphin 'accents', culinary preferences, pod behaviour, and overall personalities to better understand human social constructs and cultural evolution. 
  • Studies show that dolphins are evolving and becoming even more intelligent. Scientists claim that dolphin DNA is advancing, particularly in those that display more brilliant behaviours, such as using sponges and other ocean items as tools.

Charisma Factor

  • Dolphins are one of the most appealing and charismatic marine megafaunas. An encounter with a pod of dolphins includes no shortage of entertaining interactions, emotional delight, fascination and curiosity, and heartfelt human-animal connection. Especially as dolphins are intelligently sophisticated and take an interest in humans.
  • The dolphins' charisma is partly due to their intelligence. They are capable of feeling joy, curiosity, grief, and pain. Moreover, they playfully communicate these human-like emotions, display an impressive level of consciousness and self-awareness, and use sonar to recognise and investigate things, including humans.

Myths and Legends

  • Humans have always dedicated a special place in our hearts to dolphins, as they reside in cultures' mythology and folklore all across the globe. For instance, Dolphins were certified messengers of the ancient greek gods. The Chinese viewed dolphin sightings as angelic messages indicating guardianship. Some Christians even placed dolphins on gravestones to represent Jesus Christ. 
  • Dolphins are characterised as noble ocean saviours. Hence, the heaps of great dolphin-related legends where these cetaceans heroically save human lives at sea. One tale, in particular, is about a poet tossed overboard by piratic crew members scheming to ransack the poet's prize money. The poet curiously sang before he was forsaken, which attracted dolphins to his miraculous rescue.

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