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Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

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The Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Stenella frontalis) was named by the scientist J.E. Gray in 1866. The word Stenella comes from the Greek word stenos, which means “narrow,” and has a reference to the long, narrow beak that is typical of all the Stenella dolphins. Frontalis comes from the Latin, and means “pertaining to the head.” It’s perhaps easier to understand its common name, “spotted dolphin,” however, because a primary characteristic of this species is that as it matures its body becomes covered with spots.

The Atlantic spotted dolphin is a relatively small dolphin. It reaches an adult length of about six feet (2m). The females are slightly larger than the males. Calves, at birth, are about 24 to 30 inches (60-75cm). Adults weigh about 200 pounds (90k).


All Stenella are found in temperate and tropical waters, and Stenella frontalis are found mostly off the Atlantic Coast of the United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas. Because of their position in the food chain, dolphins are considered an “indicator species,” which means that their presence and condition act as signs of environmental conditions.

Dolphins are airbreathing mammals that inhabit all the oceans of the world. Sleek and aerodynamically-formed, they are tight-skinned and feel rubbery to the touch. There are over thirty dolphin species in all, and they are differentiated from each other not only by size, but also by shape and markings.

Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures; in fact, their brain size is larger in proportion to their body weight than ours is, and considerable evidence exists attesting to their intelligence. They live in close-knit social groups called “pods,” and have a complex communication system, including their own names or “signature whistles.”