On Thursday, May 22, one of Marineland Dolphin Adventure’s resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Dazzle, successfully gave birth to a female calf. Shortly after birth, the calf took its first breath and then began to swim with its mother. Both mom and calf are doing well, and Marineland animal care and training teams will continue to monitor the pair in the coming months.

“Over the past week, our team has been giving around-the-clock care to Dazzle and her calf, taking every measure possible to ensure that the calf thrives to its best potential,”  said Dr. Gregory Bossart, chief veterinary officer and senior vice president. “The first several days of a calf’s life are very important. We look for critical milestones such as nursing independently, weight gain and bonding with the mother. Dazzle and the calf continue to surpass these important moments. The animal care and training staff at Marineland are looking forward to the critical 30 day marker that significantly increases the calf’s chances for success and remain cautiously optimistic.”

Marineland Dolphin Adventure has the longest standing dolphin breeding program of any aquarium or zoo.  In fact, the first dolphin birth in a human care environment took place at Marineland in 1947. Animals in accredited zoos and aquariums serve as ambassadors to their counterparts in the wild. With every animal birth, researchers and experts can learn more from mothers, calves and other dolphins to build data that can ultimately be used to conserve the species in their natural habitats.

“I’m extremely proud of the passionate, dedicated and unrivaled care that our experts have given and will continue to give Dazzle, her calf and the other dolphins in our care as we work through the coming critical months,“ said Kurt Allen, general manager and vice president.  “As we continue to remember and honor the legacy of Marineland’s Nellie, who at 61 was the longest-lived dolphin in human care, the birth of Dazzle’s calf so soon after her passing is a beautiful reminder as to why the Marineland Dolphin Adventure staff has dedicated their lives to caring for these animals.”

Dazzle and the calf are currently bonding in a semi-private habitat and may not be visible to public. More information about Dazzle and her calf can be found on Marineland.net and Georgia Aquarium’s blog.  To be among the first to receive announcements about the calf and other information, sign up for Marineland’s e-newsletters here. Stays connected with Marineland and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Contact Public Relations:      

Jessica Fontana
Public Relations Specialist
404.581.4391
jfontana@georgiaaquarium.org

 

ABOUT MARINELAND DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

Marineland Dolphin Adventure’s goal is to utilize interactive educational experiences to inspire visitors to value and respect marine mammals and their environment. Located south of St. Augustine, Florida, Marineland Dolphin Adventure opened in 1938 as Marine Studios and marked its 75th anniversary celebration in 2013. In addition to its status as one of Florida’s first and most beloved attractions, the park also pioneered marine science studies, animal training and water chemistry, and is known for establishing the world’s first successful dolphin breeding program. At today’s modern facility, the focus is on intimate, unhurried dolphin interactions, swimming with dolphins and a variety of engaging dolphin encounters. Marineland Dolphin Adventure also hosts memorable oceanside events. Marineland Dolphin Adventure is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and is affiliate of Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit www.marineland.net.  

ABOUT ATLANTIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS

Range / Habitat

  • Range
    •  Found throughout the Atlantic 
    •  Nova Scotia to Patagonia 
    •  Norway to the tip of South Africa 
  • Distribution
    •  In the Northwest Atlantic, this species has separate inshore and offshore distributions: 
      • Inshore occurs within about 5 miles (7.5 km) of the coast 
      • Offshore occurs beyond about 21 miles (34 km) from shore
  • Habitat
    • Commonly seen in bays, tidal creeks, inlets, marshes, rivers and along open ocean beaches, most often in water depths of about 10 feet (3 m) or less.

Physical Characteristics

  • Color
    • Generally slate gray to charcoal in color, including counter shading (darker dorsally and lighter ventrally). 
    • Sides of the body often have light brush markings. 
  • Size
    • Average weight and length of an adult ranges between 485 - 595 lbs. (219.9 - 269.9 kg) and 7.2 - 8.9 feet (2.2 - 2.7 m). 
      • Length and weight vary widely according to geographic region. 
      • Body size also typically varies inversely with water temperature of its location (i.e., larger animals occur in colder regions).
    • Average weight and length of a calf is 22 - 44 lbs. (9.9 - 20.0 kg); 2.7- 4.6 feet (.8 - 1.4 m).
  • Teeth
    • The common bottlenose dolphin has 72 to 104 teeth. 
    • Teeth are not replaced if lost.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet/Amount
    • The diet of a coastal bottlenose dolphin is diverse and depends on location.
    • Many eat only fish, although some consume small numbers of cephalopods, crustaceans, small rays and sharks. 
    • Dolphins do not chew. Larger prey may be torn into smaller pieces, but most food is swallowed whole.
    •  It is estimated that in the wild, an adult consumes about 5 percent of its body weight daily. 
  • Feeding behaviors
    • Feeding behavior ranges from hunting individually to occasional cooperative foraging on schooling fishes.
    • Feeding takes place both during the day and at night.
    • There is strong evidence that bottlenose dolphins are selective feeders, taking fish disproportionately based on their availability in the environment and especially selecting soniferous (sound producing) fish.
    • Calves learn hunting methods primarily by observing their mothers. 

Conservation Status

  • “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • The maximum adult weight reported in the ocean:
    • 626 lbs. (284 kg) from the western North Atlantic  
    • 1400 lbs. (635 kg) from the eastern North Atlantic. 
  • Social Units
    • Coastal common bottlenose dolphins are primarily found in groups of two to 15 individuals. These groups are fluid, often repeated but not constant. Solitary coastal animals can be observed in various regions of the world.
    • Group composition has been observed to be dependent on sex, age, reproductive condition, familial relationships and affiliation history.
    • Typical social units include: nursery groups (females and their most recent calves), mixed sex groups of juveniles and strongly-bonded pairs of adult males.
  • Reproduction
    • Male bottlenose dolphins reach sexual maturity at between 8 and 13 years of age.
    • Female bottlenose dolphins reach sexual maturity at between 5 and 10 years of age.
    • Gestation lasts about 12 months and the female may bear young into her 40s. 
    • Births may occur in all seasons, but typically peaks occur during spring, early summer and fall. 
    • Calves nurse for 18 to 24 months, but may start capturing prey by about one year of age under the tutelage of the mother.
  • Skin
    • Highly specialized and contains tiny ridges that play an important role in reducing drag. 
    • The outer layer of skin is shed approximately every 2 hours to increase swimming efficiency by maintaining a smooth body surface. 
    • The skin is also an important sensory organ.
    • The epidermis (outer layer of skin) is approximately 15-20 times thicker than that of a human. 
  • Vision 
    • Vision is similar above and below the water surface. 
    • Its eyes are adapted for low-light conditions. 
    • Oily mucus is secreted that lubricates the eye, washes away debris and possibly streamlines the eye as the dolphin swims.
    • Scientists are unsure whether this dolphin species possesses color vision.
  • Sleep State 
    • The bottlenose dolphin engages in unihemispheric slow wave sleep (USWS) in which one half of its brain is in a sleep state, while the other half maintains visual and auditory awareness of the environment, which allows it to surface to breathe.
  • Life Expectancy 
    • In the wild the average life expectancy is estimated to be approximately 13 years. 
    • In human care in AMMPA facilities, life expectancy on average is more than 25 years. 
  • Swim Speed
    • Adults routinely swim at speeds of about 3 to 7 mph (5 - 11 km/h).
    • The maximum observed swim speed of a common bottlenose dolphin was about 18 mph (29 km/hr) for a very short distance. 
  • Dives/Depths
    • The average dive duration for the coastal bottlenose dolphin ranges from 20 to 40 seconds. The maximum voluntary breath hold recorded was 7 minutes 15 seconds.
    • Coastal dolphins inhabit waters about 10 feet (3 m) deep and so rarely go deeper.
    • A tagged offshore dolphin reached depths of 1,614 feet (492 m). 
  • Hearing
    • This dolphin species has a range of hearing much wider than ours. 
    • The sound of human speech falls well within this range, so dolphin can hear what we say.
  • Smell
    • A dolphin’s brain lacks an olfactory system (sense of smell).
  • Vocalization
    • Wide range of vocalizations, including whistles, grunts, trills, squeaks and moans. 
    • Dolphins communicate in order to hunt efficiently, raise young and guard against predators.
    • It has been determined that individual dolphins develop a specific “signature whistle” within the first few months of life and that this signature whistle remains the same throughout its life. Individuals use their unique whistle to communicate identity, location and, potentially, emotional state.
  • Echolocation
    • Click-like pulses produced by nasal sacs in its trachea are used for echolocation, which is its primary sensory system. The bounce-back from these signals is received in the lower jaw bone and transmitted to the inner ear, which sends nerve impulses to the brain. 
    • Echolocation allows the animal to locate prey, identify predators and navigate in the dark or in murky water. 
    • Using echolocation, a dolphin can determine size, shape, structure, composition, speed, distance, and direction. 
    • Its range is about 230 feet (70 m). Field studies have shown that the common bottlenose dolphin uses its echolocation only as necessary, andthat individuals do not continuously produce clicks.
  • Threats to Wild Dolphins
    • Mortalities and serious injuries from entanglement in recreational and commercial fishing gear are currently among the most serious threats to bottlenose dolphins. 
    • The accumulation of chemicals and heavy metals released into the environment by human activities continues to impact dolphin populations both directly and indirectly.
    • Feeding or swimming with dolphins in the wild trains them to approach boats, making them vulnerable to potential propeller strikes, gear entanglement, ingestion of foreign objects, or intentional harm from humans.