Bottlenose Dolphins

Tursiops truncatus

San Diego is the year round home to two different types of Bottlenose dolphins, the coastal and offshore eco-types. Throughout the year we have the opportunity to encounter these charismatic dolphins either along the coastline in small groups or offshore where they are often in pods of 50 or more. Bottlenose dolphins are the largest of the beaked dolphin species and can be very acrobatic and engaging around the whale watching boat. Keep up with our Bottlenose dolphin encounters by following our daily sightings reports on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Bottlenose Dolphin Info

Description – Bottlenose dolphin are named for their thick and relatively short beak – not unlike a bottle in shape. They are a robust, heavy dolphin species, the largest of the beaked dolphins. They have the typical dolphin counter shading of dark grey along the back and pale grey on the belly. Their dorsal fin is tall and sickle shaped. The eco-types differ significantly in size, the coastal dolphins being smaller while off shore Bottlenose dolphins can be over 12 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds.

Range – Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are found throughout the worlds tropical and temperate seas. They are known to be very intelligent animals and that may be why they have adapted to a large variety of water habitats including; open ocean, coasts, bays, lagoons and estuaries. In San Diego we find coastal Bottlenose dolphins often near the marina and the offshore pods 6-10 miles from the coast.

Behavior – Bottlenose dolphins are often seen hunting during the day. They diet consists mostly of fish and some squid. They use echolocation to find and possibly even stun their prey.

They are a very active and social species. Their group activity includes playing, breeding, aggression and body rubbing. Their response to the boat is typically positive with close passes and great observations.


Bottlenose dolphin populations worldwide are not considered threatened, with a few specific exceptions. Most of the threats to the conservation of Bottlenose dolphins relate to human activity. The leading threats to the Bottlenose dolphins in San Diego are; by-catch and entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation (especially for the coastal eco-types) and bio-toxins building up in coastal areas, including oil spills.

Oceanic Eco Tours is taking action through advocacy of better management of the coastal and pelagic environment. More information on these issues can be seen on our Facebook and Instagram feeds.