Bottlenose Dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

What do they look like?

Due to their iconic appearance, bottlenose dolphins are probably the most recognisable dolphin species in the world. Chunky and robust, Scottish individuals are especially adapted to live in cold water and can grow up to 4 metres in size, much larger than other bottlenose dolphins around the world. They are dark grey across their head and back with lighter grey or white underparts. A hooked, pointy dorsal fin sits in the centre of their back, often marked with unique scratches or rake marks which set individuals apart.

These dolphins are rarely solitary, usually spotted in pods of between 2 and 12, although larger groups are not uncommon. Known for their amazing acrobatic behaviour, this species is often very surface active and can be seen displaying a variety of behaviours including boat interaction, tail-slapping and breaching.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Bottlenose dolphins are fairly widespread around the world, although Scotland is the most northerly point of their global range. There are resident populations on both the West and East coast of Scotland and pods are often seen very close to the shore. These dolphins are often accompanied by flocks of feeding birds, a good marker for watchers to follow from the land.

40 years
Dolphins, like many cetaceans, are long lived.
Average lifespan
Up to 4 Metres
The bottlenose dolphins resident around Scotland are the largest in the world, their size helps them thrive in our cold waters.

Find out more about cetaceans
Not many people know that Scotland has some of the best whale and dolphin watching opportunities in Europe. Discover more about which species you can spot, how scientists are monitoring their numbers, fun facts, crafts and more inside our cetaceans Dive-in pack.

We’re excited to be supporting a Whale and Dolphin Conservation Shorewatch site here in North Berwick! WDC Shorewatch is a network of volunteers trained to monitor whales and dolphins at sites around the Scottish coastline, raising awareness and capturing vital data to protect these amazing species.

Wildlife Boat Trips
Bottlenose dolphins are regular visitors to the Firth of Forth and can sometimes be spotted from our guided wildlife boat trips and from the shore.

Want to find out more about cetaceans in Scotland?

Visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website or the Sea Watch Foundation website for more information.