The ubiquitous bottlenose dolphin is found in seas and oceans, from coastal areas to open oceans with an exception to the salty waters of arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Most of the bottlenose dolphins prefer living along the shallow coastal waters or where the surface temperature of water ranges between 10 degrees and 32 degrees Celsius and availability of fish prey is larger. Bays, creeks and tidal areas make ideal habitats and are more likely to be populated by these dolphins.
Scientists have identified two forms of the bottlenose dolphins -- coastal ecotype and offshore ecotype. The dolphins that inhabit within 7.5 kilometers of the shore fall under the coastal ecotypes, and those residing more than 34 kilometers from the shore can be classified as offshore ecotypes. The two ecotypes can also be distinguished from one another by their sizes of their skulls and bodies, and unique features of their blood. The coastal ecotypes have smaller bodies and large flippers that help them to maneuver better and reduce the dissipation of heat. Their bodies are accustomed to warmer, shallow depths, and they are frequently spotted near harbors, lagoons, bays or estuaries. The offshore ecotypes, on the other hand, have larger bodies that not only protect them against their predators but also help in conserving body heat. These types are good divers and are found in cooler, deeper ocean waters.
Climatic conditions, change in the water temperatures, availability of fish prey and other feeding habits are few major reasons that can lead to seasonal migration of dolphins from one place to another. Seasonal migration is common to all offshore dolphins.
Coastal dolphins found in high latitudes display definite migration patterns every winter and travel further south. However, those living in warmer coastal waters do not show very extensive seasonal movements.
Often coastal dolphins stay within an identified limited zone. This zone is referred to as the “home range” and can be defined as the premises within which both individual dolphins and a group move about doing their daily routine activities. All individual dolphins living within a particular home range are addressed as “local residents” and groups of resident dolphins residing within the same home range are known as “resident communities”. Overlapping of home ranges is quite common.
Bottlenose dolphins mainly inhabit the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. They even inhabit the Indian Ocean, covering a large area, all the way from Indonesia until the coast of South Africa. Bottlenoses can also be found living in the Red Sea and in the western part of the Pacific where the waters are warm and tropical. In the Pacific, the bottlenoses tend to occupy the waters all the way from Japan, Australia, southern part of California until the shores of Chile. Even Hawaii has its share of bottlenoses. While many may consider the waters along Novo Scotia and Norway too cold, bottlenoses thrive in these subtropical waters. They also live in the Gulf of Mexico.
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