|Island Time Charters
of Key West
Key West Dolphin (Atlantic Bottlenose), like all dolphin, are mammals and must breathe air to survive. Dolphin
have a large hole on the top of their head that acts like a nostril, opening when the head emerges from the
water for a forceful exhale and inhale and closing as the head submerges. On average, dolphin will surface to
breathe 4 or 5 times a minute, however, they are able to hold their breath for a little over 8 minutes for
deep diving or intense feeding. As a voluntary breather (actively deciding when to breathe, humans breathe
involuntarily) dolphin are unable to fall asleep like you and I do so, mother nature gave them the ability to
"shut off" one hemisphere of their brain while the other hemisphere remains active. When the right half of the
brain is "asleep" the left eye is closed and vice versa. When sleeping, dolphin are not 100% coherent, and
normal behavior is suspended. The pod members will line up side by side and swim very slowly and rhythmically
(usually a large, slow, deliberate circle). This way of sleeping also allows the dolphin to remain aware of their
surroundings so as to protect their calves from predators. Dolphin can be found resting about 8 hours of every
day. Every so often dolphin become irritated, either with the boats or other members of the pod (kids will
drive you crazy), and they will "chuff" as a warning. Chuffing is a very, very, forceful exhale that is
repeated over and over again and is usually accompanied by tail slapping the surface of the water. There is
definitely no mistaking the message, "I have had enough!" When chuffing begins the boats will give that
individual a little extra room and he or she will be better in no time!
|Breathing, Sleeping, and Calving
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Bottlenose dolphin hunt and feed in ways we are still trying to understand. Though there are serveral different
ways of fishing, most dolphin hunt in pods. Key West is fortunate to have another feeding habit in the shallows
that is far more individual. In the case of pod hunting, each dolphin will have a separated and defined roll.
After the dolphin have "balled up", or herded the bait into compact ball, they will "pass" through taking as
second pass until all of the pod has taken a first. The teamwork and togetherness is most impressive.
In the area we previously mentioned known as the "Playgrounds", you can witness the other common style of
feeding. "Blasting", seen mostly in tropical waters, is most impressive and seen in individuals hunting alone. In
this technique, dolphin will use their echo location (following sounds they make like radar) to find prey buried in
the sand. Once located, the dolphin will force its beak 2"-6" into the sand and sharply exhale, or blast, its
prey into the free swimming water. Once swimming, the prey is almost certainly caught.