(Also known as Tursiops truncatus)
By Claudia Villacian Casado
Natural Kingdom: Wild Walls are a series of wildlife and nature murals in cities and towns across the UK. These murals represent our collective concern about the loss of wildlife and climate change in the UK, and internationally. Working with communities, young people, partners, and artists up and down the country we will be highlighting the importance of nature, especially for fighting climate change. The murals will be created between now and the end of September and will be accompanied by lots of political and community activity in the run up to COP26 .
Find me here: SY23 2EX
If you’re lucky enough to be looking out to beautiful Cardigan Bay from Aberystwyth on a peaceful morning, you might just be able to catch a glimpse of a sleek, dark grey, curved dorsal fin. Or hear a faint clicking sound as you see a streamlined body surfing the waves – what could it be? You’re in the presence of a playful and sociable bottlenose dolphin!
Found throughout the world and the UK but frequenting Aberystwyth through Cardigan Bay, common bottlenose dolphins help keep our oceans healthy – which is crucial to having a healthy planet. They do this by eating animals like fish and squid, maintaining the balance in the food chain. Due to anthropogenic factors, the beautiful bottlenose dolphin faces several threats. As a trusting and playful animal, bottlenose dolphins often get caught in fishing gear and our continual exploitation of our waters means commercial fishing for other species is a threat to bottlenose dolphins. While seeing a bottlenose dolphin from a boat might be a wonderful experience for humans, boat traffic and water pollution can disrupt these creatures’ natural habitat and affect their sense of orientation. Unfortunately, our impact on the planet means the bottlenose dolphin has to be on high alert.
So why should we care and what makes these dolphins so special? The bottlenose dolphins found in British waters are the biggest of their kind and from Aberystwyth looking out to Cardigan Bay is one of the best places to see them! Their size helps them cope and thrive in the cold temperature of the waters – they can live up to 50 years! Common bottlenose dolphins are social animals and love to live in groups – you call these groups pods. Another characteristic of these creatures are the different types of vocalisations they use to keep in contact. Just within the population found in Cardigan Bay, we can hear a variation in the type of whistles used to communicate. As well as whistling, bottlenose dolphins make clicking sounds so they can use echolocation to find prey or scope out their surroundings. These animals have extremely complex language systems – what do you think they’d say if we could understand?
And how can you spot a bottlenose dolphin? The name might give you a hint – these dolphins have a short and bottle-shaped beak as well as light/dark grey bodies with a lighter underbelly. Around 60% of the dolphin population in Cardigan Bay has a distinct mark on their fin, making it easier to recognize them! Otherwise look out for these animals taking part in some activities. Bottlenose dolphins love to have fun – they’ve been known to surf on waves, jump out of the water and slap their tails! They’re also speedy swimmers – being able to reach speeds of 18 miles an hour.
After a long day of exerting so much effort, the bottlenose dolphin rests by alternating which side of their body sleeps – a type of sleep called unihemispheric sleep. A true testament to how magnificent these creatures are, they only rest one side of the body at a time so they can maintain consciousness on the other side to carry out activities like breathing or swimming very steadily. Tomorrow their day of play, hunting and communication starts again!
How are we helping, and how you can too:
Common bottlenose dolphins are at risk in our changing climate and through our exploitation of the ocean. To help, you can:
- Visit the mural, take a picture, draw it, post it online and celebrate its beauty!
- Get in touch with your local MP or councillor, write them a letter, and tell them why protecting and restoring nature is so important! We can help you get started here
- Support organisations like Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation and The Wildlife Trusts – get in touch with them, tell them about the mural, why you care, and let’s fight together!
- Learn more about our friend the Common Bottlenose Dolphin here and here.
- Paint/Draw/Write about your own experiences with the species and @ukyouth4nature on socials