Key West is a jewel in Florida's crown. This is due both to the fascinating historical events that have occurred on the tiny island, which was once the home of famed author Earnest Hemingway, and to its many natural and geographical wonders. It is surrounded by coral reefs, exotic aquatic life, and other unique sights. It is even possible to interact with some of the wildlife, such as having a Key West dolphin encounter while diving or snorkeling. These friendly marine mammals surround the island and, in the proper conditions, can safely be approached. Though they can sometimes be spotted in groups of up to 1000, they're usually in much less intimidating groups of just 20 or 30.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Appearance
Dolphins are marine mammals. This means that despite living underwater they need to surface to breath, and they give birth to live young much as land animals do. They are a dark gray color, though lighter on their belly than on their back. They can go up to 20 minutes without breathing, but usually breath every 20 or 30 seconds. Even when sleeping, which they do about 8 hours a day, they stay half awake in order to continue to surface for breaths.
They have a blowhole on the top of their head which they breath through, and a dorsal fin located further down their back. They also have two pectoral fins on their sides, high up on the body. Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins grow to be up to 13 feet long, though some are as small as six and half feet. On the large end, they can weigh almost 1,500 pounds. In warm climates they are generally smaller, while cold water dolphins grow to be bigger.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Eating Habits
Dolphins eat a variety of small fish, squid and octopus. They focus mainly on so-called prey fish, which include anchovies and sardines. They are very intelligent and have been known to hunt in groups by herding the fish together. They are also recorded examples of dolphins herding fish towards nets, and eating the fish that escape. They have a long beak which contains between 72 and 112 teeth and use echolocation to hunt, though they also have good eyesight both above and below the water. Though they are sometimes targeted themselves by animals such as sharks, they are big enough and aggressive enough to fight back and sometimes win.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Habitats
Bottlenose dolphins are found all over the world, though they stick to tropical and temperate waters. There are three species of bottlenose dolphins, but the ones that live near the Florida Keys are the common bottlenoses. Due to their need to breath oxygen, they remain fairly near the surface, especially when sleeping. Though there are dolphins found both near the coast and in the deep ocean, the coastal dolphins are smaller and have larger flippers. Deep sea dolphins, perhaps because of the colder water, tend to be larger.