Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops Truncatus)
Size: 10 to 14 ft (3 to 4.2 m)
Weight: 1,100 lbs (500 kg)
Average life span in captivity: 45 to 50 years
Their intelligence, friendly disposition, and "smiling" faces make dolphins popular in large aquariums and with divers.
Bottlenose dolphins are well known as the intelligent and charismatic stars of many aquarium shows. Their curved mouths give the appearance of a friendly, permanent smile, and they can be trained to perform complex tricks.
In the wild, these sleek swimmers can reach speeds of over 18 miles (30 kilometers) an hour. They surface often to breathe, doing so two or three times a minute. Bottlenose dolphins travel in social groups and communicate with each other by a complex system of squeaks and whistles. Schools have been known to come to the aid of an injured dolphin and help it to the surface.
Bottlenose dolphins track their prey through the expert use of echolocation. They can make up to 1,000 clicking noises per second. These sounds travel underwater until they encounter objects, then bounce back to their dolphin senders, revealing the location, size, and shape of their target.
When dolphins are feeding, that target is often a bottom-dwelling fish, though they also eat shrimp and squid. These clever animals are also sometimes spotted following fishing boats in hopes of dining on leftovers.
Bottlenose dolphins are found in tropical oceans and other warm waters around the globe. They were once widely hunted for meat and oil (used for lamps and cooking), but today only limited dolphin fishing occurs. However, dolphins are threatened by commercial fishing for other species, like tuna, and can become mortally entangled in nets and other fishing equipment.
All dolphins, including the bottlenose, are porpoises. Although some people use these names interchangeably, porpoises are actually a larger group that also includes animals like the orca and the beluga whale.
Did you know?
Bottlenose dolphins have been observed to breach up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) out of the water, landing with a splash on their back or side.
California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
Species: Z. californianus
Range Pacific coasts: British Columbia to Mexico; Galapagos Islands.
Habitat Breeds on coasts and islands in south of range.
Size 1.7-2.2 m (51/2-71/4 ft)
Weight: 610 to 860 lbs (275 to 390 kg)
Average life span in the wild: Less than 30 years.
This attractive sea lion takes well to training and is the most commonly seen species in circuses and marine shows. Females and juveniles are tan-coloured when dry, while the larger males are brown; males are also distinguished by the horny crest on their heads. Social animals, these sea lions occur in groups and
often come on to land outside the breeding season. They feed mainly on fish, octopus and squid. Males gather at a breeding site, but only establish territories when the females arrive and start to give birth; territories are ill-defined and somewhat unstable. The female produces 1 young, and mates again a few days later.
Fastest of the seals and sea lions, California sea lions can be seen gathered in colonies along the Pacific coastlines of North America.
The clichéd circus seal—obligingly balancing a ball on its nose and jumping through hoops—is typically a California sea lion.
But in the wild, the California sea lion is a sleek animal, faster than any other sea lion or seal. These eared seals top out at speeds of some 25 miles (40 kilometers) an hour. Unlike other sea lions, California sea lions do not have lionlike manes.
These pinnipeds live along the rocky Pacific Ocean coastlines of western North America and also near Ecuador's Galápagos Islands. Huge colonies can be seen gathered on seaside rocks, and even on man-made structures, for breeding and for birthing. Males gather harems of females to their sides in competition to sire young pups, which are born on land.
The sea lion's ancient ancestors, like those of whales and dolphins, lived on land. The modern animal is well adapted to an aquatic environment, with its streamlined body and powerful flippers. (The rear flippers rotate forward to allow a California sea lion to move surprisingly well on land.) California sea lions also boast thick layers of blubber to insulate their bodies from the chill of marine waters.
When diving deep, California sea lions slow their heart rates to allow them to remain underwater for nearly ten minutes before surfacing to breathe. This ability gives them an edge in the pursuit of the fish, squid, and shellfish that make up their primary diet.
Did you know?
California sea lions may hunt continuously for up to 30 hours, with each dive lasting three to five minutes.