Volume 4 Number 8
A Friendly Bottlenosed Dolphin named Little Ricky
at Sand Castles Reef near San Salvador, The Bahamas
Little Ricky is an Atlantic Bottlenosed Dolphin. Little Ricky gave Sandy Voegeli a treat while she was diving at Sand Castles Reef near San Salvador. Little Ricky swam with her above the reef for nearly 25 minutes. Sandy had several opportunities to get close to Little Ricky. She took this terrific picture of Little Ricky when it swam close to her.
Like other Dolphins, Atlantic Bottlenosed Dolphins are mammals. They are warm blooded and breathe air. Look closely and you will see the blowhole on the top of Little Ricky's head. The Dolphin swims to the surface to breathe, and breathes through this blowhole by sticking its head out of the water. With a big breath of air, the Dolphin can stay underwater for several minutes before it has to return to the surface for another breath.
It is unusual for Dolphins to approach scuba divers underwater. One reason for this may be that divers blow bubbles. Scuba divers carry their air in tanks they carry on their backs. As they exhale, their breath escapes through valves on their scuba regulators, making bubbles as the air rises to the surface. Dolphins sometimes exhale underwater to make bubbles on purpose. Dolphins often travel together underwater in a group, called a pod. They sometimes make bubbles underwater as a threat to other Dolphins, warning strangers that are not part of the pod to stay away from the pod. Because scuba divers make bubbles, some scientists think Dolphins feel unwelcome and stay away.
One reason Little Ricky may not feel afraid of the bubble-blowing scuba divers is that it is very young. Little Ricky was born in March 2002. Little Ricky's childish curiosity may be stronger than its instincts about social graces.
Be sure to read more about Dolphins on the ReefNews website. You can meet another friendly Atlantic Bottlenosed Dolphin named Spot and snorkel with a pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins near Bimini.
Sandy Voegeli is a researcher at the Gerace Research Center on San Salvador.
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