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Dolphin Tales: Spotted dolphin of the Bahama Banks

By Capt. Cathy Eagle - | Sep 8, 2021

Capt. Cathy Eagle. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Bahama Banks are 700 low lying islands sitting on a vast limestone shelf on the northern fringes of the Caribbean. Bahama is derived from the Spanish word, bajamar, which means shallow sea. (Like Matlacha means water to the knee or chin, depending on the tide.)

The surrounding waters of the Bahama Banks offer good visibility, great fishing grounds and protection from danger for the Caribbean’s most intelligent animals — the spotted dolphins. The dolphins cruise the banks in family groups. They communicate with a wide range of whistles and squeaks. Dolphins produce between 20 and 1,000 clicks per second that they use to echolocate food and other marine life.

Spotted dolphins are born without spots and can be mistaken for the bottlenose dolphin. Young dolphins shadow their mothers for the first three years, learning the ins and outs of dolphin life. Mom reassures her young with constant caresses with her pectoral fin. Within the group, this kind of body language helps to reinforce relationships.

Large bottlenose dolphins also live on the banks. Male bottlenose are much more aggressive than their spotted relatives, charging and biting them. Although the different species often socialize, sometimes the bottlenose dolphins throw their weight around and become very aggressive.

Bullying often has a sexual edge. Male bottlenose try to mate with spotted females and also harass young spotted males. The spotted dolphins join forces to ward them off, often calling on neighboring groups to help.

Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.