Indian ocean bottlenose dolphin - Tursiops aduncus

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Scientific Name Tursiops aduncus
Author (Ehrenberg, 1833)
Taxonomic Rank Species
Taxonomic # 612596
Common Names English: Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin
English: Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin
English: Red Sea bottlenose dolphin
Current Standing valid
Taxonomic Parents Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
      Class: Mammalia
        Subclass: Theria
          Infraclass: Eutheria
            Order: Cetacea
              Suborder: Odontoceti
                Family: Delphinidae
                  Genus: Tursiops
Taxonomic Children
Synonyms (since 1950)

Taxonomic data is courtesy of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
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Physical Description / Field Identification

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins look very similar to common bottlenose dolphins, with a relatively robust body, moderate-length beak, and tall falcate dorsal fin. However, they tend to be somewhat more slender than common bottlenose dolphins, and the beak is relatively longer and more slender.

Coloration (although variable) tends to be somewhat lighter than in most common bottlenose dolphins. The cape is generally more distinct, and there is often a light spinal blaze extending to below the dorsal fin. The most distinctive feature is generally the presence of prominent black spots or flecks on the bellies of adults of this species (these are very rarely present on common bottlenose dolphins). However, not all Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins necessarily have ventral spotting.

The teeth number 23-29 in each upper and lower jaw. They are a bit more slender than those of common bottlenose dolphins.

Although maximum size is geographically variable, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins grow to lengths of only about 2.7 m and 230 kg. Length at birth is about 85-112 cm.

Can be Confused With

This species can be difficult to distinguish from the common bottlenose dolphin in sightings at sea. The best field characters to look for are the length and slenderness of the beak, and the presence/absence of black spots on the belly.


These animals are found only in the warm temperate to tropical Indo-Pacific, from South Africa in the west to southern Japan and north-central Australia in the east. They occur almost exclusively over the continental shelf, mostly in very shallow coastal and inshore waters. There are also populations around some oceanic islands in southern Japan.

Ecology and Behavior

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins occur in groups ranging in size up to the low hundreds, but groups of less than 20 are much more common. They sometimes occur in mixed groups with common bottlenose dolphins and other delphinid species. Off western Australia, where this species’ behavior has been most intensively studied, male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins often band together to garner young females from the group.

Although reproductive activity occurs throughout the year, breeding peaks in spring and summer months. The gestation period is about 12 mos, and calves are weaned after 18-24 months of lactation.

Sharks often prey on these animals, at least in areas where they have been well-studied, such as South Africa and eastern and western Australia.

Feeding and Prey

Feeding is on a large variety of schooling, demersal and reef fishes, as well as cephalopods. Most prey items are less than 20 cm in length. Off eastern Australia dolphins feed behind trawlers, often in association with sympatric humpback dolphins.

Threats and Status

Some Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are taken in the small cetacean fisheries of Sri Lanka and possibly in Indonesia as well. Live-captures for oceanarium display have taken place in Taiwanese and Indonesian waters in recent years. Until it was outlawed in 1990, this species was involved in a large-scale drive fishery in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands.

Incidental catches occur in a number of fisheries throughout the range, including gillnets and purse seines. The largest known of these includes up to 2,000 per year taken in the Taiwanese driftnet fishery operating in Indonesian waters (this fishery formerly operated in northern Australian waters). In addition, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are killed in anti-shark gillnets in South Africa and Australia. Since it is a coastal species, it is subjected to a number of other human threats – including habitat destruction/degradation, vessel collisions, and environmental contamination.

Currently, the conservation status of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins is ‘Not Listed’ (IUCN and ESA).



Chilvers, B.L. and P.J. Corkeron. 2002. Association patterns of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) off Point Lookout, Queensland, Australia. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80:973-979.

Connor, R.C., R.S. Wells, J. Mann and A.J. Read. 2000. The bottlenose dolphin social relationships in a fission-fusion society. pp. 91-126 in J. Mann, R.C. Connor, P.L. Tyack and H. Whitehead, eds. Cetacean societies field studies of dolphins and whales. University of Chicago Press.

Curry, B.E. and J. Smith. 1997. Phylogeographic structure of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) stock identification and implications for management. 227-248 in A.E. Dizon, S.J. Chivers and W.F. Perrin, eds. Molecular genetics of marine mammals. The Society of Marine Mammalogy.

Wang, J.Y., L.S. Chou and B.N. White. 1999. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of sympatric morphotypes of bottlenose dolphins (genus Tursiops) in Chinese waters. Molecular Ecology 8:1603-1612.

Wang, J.Y., L.S. Chou and B.N. White. 2000. Differences in external morphology of two sympatric species of bottlenose dolphins (genus Tursiops) in the waters of China. Journal of Mammalogy 81:1157-1165.

Wells, R.S. and M.D. Scott. 1999. Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus (Montagu, 1821). pp. 137-182 in S.H. Ridgway and R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 6 The second book of dolphins and the porpoises. Academic Press.

Wells, R.S. and M.D. Scott. 2002. Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and T. aduncus. pp. 122-128 in W.F. Perrin, B. Würsig and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Academic Press.

ITIS TSN612596
Status - ESA, U.S. FWS
Status - Red List, IUCN
    NT (Global)
#records (spatial)1,389
#records (non-spatial)0
Year1972 - 2017
Latitude-35.61 - 29.55
Longitude18.80 - 166.52
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