Winding through the mangroves and brackish waters of the Ten Thousand Islands, you’re more than certain to stumble upon the smiling faces of Common Bottlenose Dolphins. These dolphins, scientifically known as Tursiops truncatus, have strong, mighty bodies that are blue-gray in color with their bellies and sides fading into a lighter gray. Their sleek body and powerful tail equip them to dive deep depths in the big blue and swim quickly. Some people are often mistaken when seeing Bottlenose dolphins and call them porpoises, which look similar but are actually small toothed whales. They are normally 6 to 12 feet when they reach adulthood and they are able to reach speeds of up to 22 miles per hour, but usually, Bottlenose dolphins cruise at the speed of 5 miles per hour. These marine mammals are carnivores as their diet consists of mullet, pinfish, flounder, sheepshead and other sea invertebrates. Bottlenose dolphins can actually eat more than a whopping 20 pounds each day, which is a lot considering most humans eat about 5 pounds per day! These dolphins are known to reach weights of about 300 pounds up to 1,400 pounds, and their average life span when living in the wild is roughly 45 to 50 years. Bottlenose dolphins use a form of sonar to navigate their way to find food and avoid predators by making a clicking noise. Contrary to popular belief, the clicking noise they make is not the way they communicate, they use whistle and squawk noises to communicate or socialize with one another. These dolphins, if inshore, live in smaller groups of roughly 10 dolphins; whereas if they are living offshore, they live in larger groups of about 10-100 dolphins. They travel the shallow waters near the ranges of their home in groups of 4-7 individuals and in deeper areas more than 20 individuals. A fun fact about these mammals is if you happen to see one traveling alone, it’s usually going to be a male dolphin. This is because females typically are seen swimming along in groups called pods. When my parents and I are out on the boat we always see them in the shallow waters either traveling, feeding or mating while being in their smaller groups. These dolphins are very curious creatures and love swimming in the waves or wakes that are caused by boats because basically, they’re receiving a free ride! The durable kinetic energy that’s produced from the wakes propels the dolphins, causing them to not use as much energy or effort to swim. Practically every time we pass by these Bottlenose dolphins they catch up to swim in the wake from our boat! They’ll turn, spin and jump through the waves performing the cutest show for us on the boat. One time when one group of dolphins were swimming away after a fun-short period of riding our wake, one of them jumped high into the air towards us and waved its tail as if to say goodbye! Just recently I was fishing with my dad when a group decided to catch a ride; they were so close as I sat on the back edge of the boat that I easily could’ve reached out and pet them as they swam along on their sides. Another thing to note is that it is against the law to harass or feed these wild dolphins and swimming or other interactions with them, such as feeding can increase their risk of an injury from a boat. So, make sure if you’re out on the water in the Ten Thousand Islands be courteous and keep a look-out for these adorable sea creatures; and if they end up wanting to catch a ride in your wake, be ready for a fun and entertaining show!
University of Florida student Savannah Oglesby has lived in Everglades City her entire life. A lover of nature; some of her favorite things are sunsets, night lightning and mountains. She enjoys adventures and spending time with family, friends and two orange tabby cats. She also enjoys travelling, taking photos of nature, learning about extreme weather and seeing the world in different perspectives. Savannah’s love for Everglades City, and its history, is endless.