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                  Atlantic bottlenose dolphins belong to the family Delphinidae, 
                  genus Tursiops and the species truncatus.  Scientists believe 
                  that the first dolphins lived 65 million years ago and that 
                  modern dolphins have existed for 12 million years.  Dolphins, 
                  whales and porpoises are Cetaceans (belonging to the order Cetecea).



Bottlenose dolphins have dark topside and a lighter underside. The dark coloring causes them to blend in with the water viewed from above. The light coloring causes them to blend in with the light rays on the water when viewed from below. This coloration is a type of camouflage, known as counter-shading helping them conceal themselves from predators and prey. Dolphins have 80 to 100 conical shaped teeth. Their teeth are used for grasping not chewing food. Dolphins have a sense of taste, but no sense of smell. Dolphins are warm-blooded animals. A dolphin’s body temperature is about 36.5º C (97.7º F). Pectoral flippers, which dolphins use for steering or guiding themselves while swimming, contain many bones similar to the structure of a human hand. Their dorsal fin is used for swimming stability, while there sleek, streamlined bodies makes them hydro-dynamically efficient. In utero, dolphins have small amounts of hair on their rostrums; this hair disappears shortly after birth. Once they are s, all that remains are the actual hair follicles. Dolphins have slightly larger brains than humans and a brain size to body size ratio very similar to our own.
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are mammals. As with all mammals, including humans, they have lungs and breath air, are warm-blooded, give birth to live young and nurse their young. The gestation period for dolphins is approximately 12-13 months. Dolphins normally bear one calf per birth, usually born fluke (tail) first. At birth, dolphins are about 2.5’-3. 5’ long and weight about 23-35 pounds. Dolphins reach their maximum size during their early teens, about 10-12 ft. length and between 400-600 pounds. The normal life expectancy of a dolphin is about 30-40 years.
Dolphins, like other mammals, communicate with each other using a variety of visual and acoustic signals. Body language is an especially important means of communication between dolphins. Each dolphin has what is known as a “signature whistle”. Some researchers say that the signature whistles help dolphins to distinguish between each other. Dolphins do not make noise through their mouths because their trachea is not connected to the esophagus. They make noises through their blowholes. Dolphins also possess a special sensory ability that enables them to navigate in murky or very deep, dark water where vision is ineffective. Using this ability, a type of biological sonar called echolocation dolphins can “see” objects by using their ears. When a dolphin echo-locates, they send out series of clicks at very fast rates. These sounds, like the dolphin’s whistles, are produced in small air sacs located inside the dolphin’s nasal cavity. The echolocation clicks are then focused through the dolphin’s melon, out into the environment where they bounce off the objects. The returning echoes reach the dolphin’s inner ear by passing through their lower jawbone. The echoes construct an image of the object in their brains. The dolphin then sends out another series of clicks to lean more about their surroundings.

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