The Florida Bottlenose Dolphin is gray, varying from dark to very light gray and nearly white or pink at the underside. Adults range in length between 6.6 and 13 ft, and weigh between 330 and 1400 lbs. Bottlenose dolphins’ average lifespan is 20 years or less but they can live for more than 40 years.They live “pods” typically of 10–30 members, but group size varies widely. Their diet consists mainly of fish, and they search for prey primarily using echolocation, which is similar to sonar. They emit clicking sounds and listen for the return echo to determine the location and shape of nearby prey. Bottlenose dolphins also use sound for communication, including squeaks and whistles emitted from the blowhole and sounds made through body language, such as leaping from the water and slapping their tails on the water surface.
Numerous studies have been made of dolphin intelligence, examining mimicry, use of artificial language, object categorization and self-recognition, and their considerable intelligence has driven interaction with humans. Bottlenose dolphins have been made popular by aquarium shows and television programs such as Flipper. They have also been trained by militaries to locate sea mines or detect and mark enemy divers.
Manatees are large marine mammals that favor the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and reside primarily in Florida’s coastal waters during winter. Our relatively warmer waters, with an average temperature of 72°F, attract these gentle creatures. Manatees are herbivores, eating marine and freshwater plants. Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They rest and feed often and communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement. Manatees only breathe through their nostrils above water, since while they are underwater, their mouths are occupied with eating! Manatee lungs are 2/3 the length of its body. Reproduction is one calf a year, born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measureing 3 to 4 feet. A close relative to the manatee is the elephant.
Bald Eagles and Florida Ospreys are nearly always found near water and both are expert anglers that like to hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for the capture with talons extended. The undersides of their toes are covered with short spines, which help them grasp slippery fish. Bald eagles dwarf most other North American raptors, with wingspans from 6.5 to 7.5 feet. Ospreys are smaller than the bald eagles that typically share the same habitats. In addition to eating other animals such as ducks, muskrats, and sometimes turtles, bald eagles eat carrion willingly, and are notorious for robbing osprey of their catches. Eagles will wait on a favorite perch for an osprey to return to its nest with a fish in its talons for its own young, then harasses the smaller raptor until it is forced to drop its prey for the eagle to retrieve.