Common Bottlenose Dolphin Foraging: Behavioral Solutions that Incorporate Habitat Features and Social Associates

  • Randall S. WellsEmail author
Part of the Ethology and Behavioral Ecology of Marine Mammals book series (EBEMM)


Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) live in a large variety of habitats, where they confront a wide range of ecological challenges to which they have developed diverse behavioral solutions. They inhabit shallow marsh creeks, estuaries, bays, open coasts, islands, shelves, and deep open ocean. Abiotic factors such as physiography, salinity, temperature, depth, tidal excursions, and currents influence ecological factors that in turn help shape behaviors of bottlenose dolphins, within their morphological and physiological constraints. Among the ecological factors of greatest importance for influencing bottlenose dolphin behavior is its prey, and foraging serves as the focus of this review. Bottlenose dolphins consume a wide variety of prey, primarily fish and squid, that typically are taken in one bite. Prey vary in size, energy content, behavior, schooling tendency, speed, maneuverability, seasonal availability, sensory abilities, sound production, defenses, location in the water column, and use of habitat features or structures. The availability of potential prey to the dolphins is dictated largely by the dolphins’ biology and the development of appropriate skills for detecting, capturing, and handling prey. The interplay of characteristics of the fish, features of their environment, and capabilities of the dolphins themselves shape the dolphins’ foraging behaviors and influence dolphin sociality.


Common bottlenose dolphin Foraging behavior Feeding behavior Passive listening Cooperative behavior Observational learning Human interactions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Programc/o Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA

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