Dolphins of the Everglades: the swamp’s smartest animal

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins possess heightened senses allowing them to socialize, sympathize and strategize, deeming them the smartest animal in the Everglades. These magnificent marine mammals frequent south Florida and can be seen surfacing off the Gulf Coast and in the Everglades’ brackish waters.

These intelligent animals are incredibly social, so you’ll often spot them swimming in groups called pods. Dolphins develop intimate relationships with members of their pod, and they function like a tight-knit family.

Extremely active, you might catch two dolphins chasing after each other or jumping up out of the water as if performing tricks. And sometimes playtime and mealtime overlap. When hunting, a dolphin may play with a fish for a while before actually eating it.

What’s more enjoyable than playing with your food? Actually tasting it. A dolphin’s taste buds interpret four of five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. These aquatic masterminds can also use taste to track down prey. A dolphin can taste whether an area was recently populated by a school of fish, thus making it easier to find food.

Another way dolphins hunt is through echolocation. By emitting a high-pitched whistle, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin interprets the sound reflection in a given area. This helps them understand where fish are and when they were there.

But hunting isn’t the only time speech comes in handy. Though scientists can’t identify whether dolphins actually use their own language, they are certain of dolphins’ ability to speak to each other. Listen for clicks, squeaks and whistles resonating from a pod. That’s often the sound of dolphins communicating with one another.

And verbal communication isn’t the only way bottlenose dolphins interact. Body language serves as an effective communicating tactic. When a dolphin is perturbed or if it wants to gain the rest of the pod’s attention, it might slap its tail.

Where to find them

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins reside in the Everglades’ largest body of water, Florida Bay. This shallow, brackish water body houses approximately 450 resident dolphins. The best way to see them? Hire an airboat for the chance to glide past these brilliant creatures in their natural Everglades habitat.

Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours offer exceptional Everglades tours with unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities. Schedule a tour with Captain Mitch by clicking here or calling 239-695-3377.