Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.)

Identifying features

  • Falcate (curved) dorsal fin
  • Stubby beak
  • Grey with a lighter coloured belly

Body length

  • Inshore – maximum 2.7 m
  • Offshore – maximum 3.8 m


  • Resident bottlenose dolphins occur in Port Phillip and the Gippsland Lakes
  • The same species of bottlenose dolphins can be found along the southern Australian coast from Victoria/Tasmania to southern Western Australia (Pratt et. al. 2018)
  • Individual dolphins can be identified by the nicks and notches that accumulate in the trailing edge of an individual’s dorsal fin
  • Bottlenose dolphins can exhibit seasonal movement within a local system

How can you help with bottlenose dolphin science?

Report your sightings to help us further our understanding of bottlenose dolphin presence in our local bays and along our coastline.

Further details

Some bottlenose dolphins that occur along the Victorian coast have been described as a new species (Burrunan dolphin: Tursiops australis) (Charlton-Robb et al. 2011). The species is listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, however, the validity of this species is under debate. At this point in time, the species has not yet been fully recognized by the wider scientific community including the Committee on Taxonomy of the Society for Marine Mammalogy. The Taxonomy Committee advises the International Whaling Committee (IWC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Charlton-Robb, K., Gershwin, L.-A., Thompson, R., Austin, J., Owen, K. and McKechnie, S. (2011). “A new dolphin species, the Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis sp. nov., endemic to southern Australian coastal waters.” PloS one 6(9): e24047.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024047.

Pratt, E. A., Beheregaray, L. B., Bilgmann, K., Zanardo, N., Diaz-Aguirre, F. and Möller, L. M. (2018). “Hierarchical metapopulation structure in a highly mobile marine predator: the southern Australian coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops cf. australis).” Conservation genetics: 1-18.