Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

CSI Photo Gallery

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

(Stenella frontalis)

These Atlantic spotted dolphins look like a statue, but they are really in fluid motion, constantly interacting with their families and group, even other species. There are many ways that they touch each other, and even use sounds like touch. Tactile communication reinforces bonds and establishes relationships. Dolphins are very tactile.
This is "Blaze", one of the well known spotted dolphins that have been studied for over 13 years. Many of this group of about 150 dolphins like to swim with people. They live far from land, otherwise they would quickly be chased away from too many people who wanted to swim with them. Sometimes we harm cetaceans because we like them too much to leave them alone.
These dolphins are echolocating into the sand, listening for prey. Razor fish and many other creatures live or hide just under the surface, and sound is the only sense dolphins have that would find them here. Some dolphins use some of their many kinds of sounds to herd and even stun prey.
Many dolphins form friendly relationships, particularly with others that they grew up with. Swimming together with synchronized movements, along with much mutual touching, reinforces these relationships. They may help each other in many ways. Many dolphin species live in very tight, complex societies.
Dolphins are very complex creatures. Too just study their parts or forms doesn't tell us much. We can learn so much about them if they accommodate to our respectful presence, and we obey their rules. To observe a close pair like this without interfering can be fun, but also very productive! All we really have to do is stop acting like we own or control everything.
Swimming with wild, free dolphins is a great honor. Unless dolphins have bad experiences with humans their natural curiosity may bring them fairly close, but you must be unaggressive and gentle, show them you mean no harm, and make it clear that they are in charge. Remember that you are just a curious toy to them.
How streamlined these dolphins are! They can move through the water with very small movements, and swim many times faster than we can. If you ever meet dolphins face to face like this treat them with respect. It is rare that dolphins would trust us enough to approach like this, and we must learn from the experience because we can then learn so much more about them, and the oceans we share.
Dolphins can make many sounds. Some are for echolocation. Others are communication, and come in many forms. The sounds are formed in air sinuses in tissue in front of the skull, below the blowhole. Some may be sent forward in a beam focused by tissues above the jaw. The returning echoes pass to the ears through fatty channels in the lower jaw. Some ocean sounds are heard with the dolphin's whole body.