Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Facts

The Atlantic spotted dolphin is a marine mammal and belongs to the cetacean family which also includes whales and porpoises.

These dolphins can be found swimming in the Golf Stream, which is located in the North Atlantic Ocean.

As the name suggests the Atlantic spotted dolphin gets its name from the fact that it lives in the Atlantic ocean and is covered in dark gray to white colored spots.

Physical Characteristics

When it comes to appearance the Atlantic spotted dolphin has a grayish skin tone with dark and light spots located around its body.

At birth these dolphins appear to be solely gray, however as they age they begin to develop spots which appear to increase in number as they grow older.

Dark spots can often be found developing on the dolphins belly, while their flanks tend to develop light or white colored spots.

Once fully matured the Atlantic spotted dolphin will reach a maximum length of 7 1/2 ft and can weigh over 300 pounds with females typically weighing around 20 pounds less than their male counterparts.

Atlantic spotted dolphins have light streamlined bodies, which are designed for fast swimming and acrobatic performances allowing them to quickly move through the water and make long leaps through the air.

Diet

The Atlantic spotted dolphin’ s diet consists primarily of small fish, benthic prey, squid, octopus and other types of cephalopods.

When hunting for prey these dolphins will typically make dives of 30 ft or less, however at times they can be seen reaching depths of up to 200 ft or more.

During these dives for prey the Atlantic spotted dolphin can hold its breath anywhere from 1 – 6 minutes before resurfacing for air.

They are also known to hunt as a strategic team using group oriented methods to isolate and capture their prey.

Habitat

The Atlantic spotted dolphin can be found living in warm tropical climates throughout the year and tend to prefer living in and around the coastal waters or around the continental shelf of the Atlantic ocean.

Where the Atlantic spotted dolphin can be found

  • Azores
  • Africa
  • Bahamas
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil
  • Cape Cod
  • Gulf of Mexico

While exact population size is difficult to estimate in many of these places it is estimated that there are over 100,000 Atlantic spotted dolphins in existence today.

Social Structure

The Atlantic spotted dolphin can often be seen traveling in small pods consisting of up to 15 dolphins, however some groups may consist of over 100 dolphins.

Dolphins that live in and around coastal waters generally form smaller pod sizes while those found living further out to sea usually travel in larger pods.

These dolphins enjoy maintaining a high level of social interaction with one another and can often be seen performing leaps and various acrobatic stunts.

The Atlantic spotted dolphin communicates using vocal sounds and body language.

When it comes to sound these dolphins use high-pitched clicks, whistles and cries to communicate nearby threats, a desire to play, that they have found food and a number of other things.

Each dolphin has its own unique frequency which helps them understand who is communicating and where.

This can be extremely useful when a mother for instances needs to keep track of one of her kids or when two friends are communicating with one another in a large pod.

Body language is also important for communication.

Dolphins may bump into one another or visualize their body language by spy hopping or leaping out of the water to alert other dolphins of various interests or threats or to display their physical abilities.

Breeding

Just like humans dolphins go through a pregnancy cycle known as a gestation period.

For the Atlantic spotted dolphin the average gestation period (the period from conception to birth) lasts 11 – 12 months.

After birth the baby dolphins receive food and nutrients by suckling milk from their mothers nipples.

Suckling may continue for several months until the newborn learns how to hunt for food and survive on its own.

The Atlantic spotted dolphin matures between the ages of 8 – 15 with most dolphins maturing around 12 years of age.

After maturity adult dolphins may then begin baring offspring of their own.

The average estimated lifespan for these dolphins is believed to be around 30 – 40 years.

Threats

Atlantic spotted dolphins have been known to face threats from sharks and killer whales however some of the more common threats these dolphins face include being accidentally caught in fishing nets or struck by boats.

Because the Atlantic spotted dolphin can be found near the coastline they are more susceptible to being accidentally harmed by local fisherman while offshore dolphins may face threats by fishing nets and predators such as sharks.

To protect themselves from predators the Atlantic spotted dolphin can be seen forming larger groups the further they move out into the ocean.

This not only helps them defend themselves and each other, but also acts as a deterrent against would be predators.