Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis)

© 2000 by Image Quest 3-D
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Photograph by James D. Watt

(PHYLUM: Chordata, CLASS: Mammalia, ORDER: Cetacea, SUBORDER: Odontoceti, FAMILY: Delphinidae)

This species of dolphin is only found in the Atlantic Ocean, in waters that are warm temperate, subtropical and tropical - it can be found in both oceanic and coastal waters.

The Atlantic spotted dolphins are fast, energetic swimmers and, like several other toothed whale species of the Suborder Odontoceti, they often travel in large pods of up to 15 individuals in coastal waters, but these may gather into larger groups to follow seasonal food. This species derives food from a number of sources, such as digging with its beak in the sandy sea bed for hidden invertebrates, poking so deep that sometimes the whole head is immersed. It also predates fish, squid and other sea creatures from the surface and mid waters, using a variety of techniques including echolocation. Echolocation is a technique adopted by all toothed whales to avoid obstacles and catch prey by emmitting a series of high frequency clicks that are refelected off objects in their path.

The torpedo-shaped body is propelled through the water by powerful thrusts of the tail. The mottled colouration that gives this species its common name camouflages the dolphins from predators and prey in shallow, sunlit waters. These markings are not present on a newborn calf but develop gradually with age. The dark patches and flecks start appearing on the belly and slowly extend to the sides and back over the years.

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2001 by Image Quest 3-D
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