You dolphinitely need to take this quiz!

An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin leaps out of the water. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Several Atlantic bottlenose dolphins showed up off Cove Point, near Solomons, MD, at the end of April. Since its launch last summer, — a website run by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science — has received reports of 1,000 sightings in the Bay and its rivers. Visit the site to learn more about these creatures and, in the meantime, you might discover a fact or two by taking this quiz. Answers are below.

1. There has been at least one exceptional case of a 1,400-pound Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. How large is the average bottlenose dolphin that visits the Chesapeake?

A. 6 feet long, 100–200 pounds

B. 9 feet long, 200–300 pounds

C. 12 feet long, 300–400 pounds

D. 15 feet long, 400–500 pounds

2. Unlike humans, who breathe without thinking about it, dolphins must consciously make the decision to breathe. Dolphins can’t take in air underwater and must constantly come up to the water’s surface to breathe. Adults have been recorded staying under the water for as long as 15 minutes, but what is the average amount a dolphin stays underwater before it must come up to inhale?

A. 3 minutes

B. 7 minutes

C. 9 minutes

D. 11 minutes

3. The average lifespan of a bottlenose dolphin is 20–25 years, with a maximum age of 60–65 years. Which sex, on average, tends to live about 10 years longer? It’s also the smaller of the two genders.

A. Female

B. Male

4. How are dolphins different from most land mammals?

A. They have no sweat glands.

B. They eat and breathe through separate holes in their mouth.

C. The normal birth position is tail (feet) first.

D. All of the above

5. A dolphin swims and steers using its flippers (forearms) and flukes (tail — each half is one fluke). Which is used to swim and which is used to steer?

6. Bottlenose dolphins usually swim 2–4 miles per hour. What is their top recorded speed?

A. Almost 11 mph

B. Almost 18 mph

C. Almost 26 mph

D. Almost 33 mph

7. Dolphins get only one set of teeth in their lifetime. They use their teeth to capture, not chew, their prey, which they swallow whole. How many teeth does a dolphin have?

A. 18–34 teeth

B. 38–64 teeth

C. 72-104 teeth

D. 110–140 teeth

8. Only newborn dolphins have hair, and it falls out within two weeks. Where is this hair found?

A. The top of its mouth

B. The top of its blowhole

C. Around its eyes

D. On the tips of its flippers

9. Dolphins share a behavior with bats. What behavior is this?

A. They locate their prey using echolocation. 

B. They flap their flippers to swim using the same motion that bats use their wings to fly through the air.

C. They are nocturnal.

D. They hibernate in sea caves.

10. A bottlenose dolphin would regularly dive 200 feet to the Sea Lab II off La Jolla, CA. He not only brought tools and mail to the lab’s personnel. Should a diver get lost, he was trained to lead the diver to safety. What was his name?

A. Blitz

B. Dash

C. Ricochet

D. Tuffy

11. Speaking about dolphin names, researcher Janet Mann, as part of her Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project, has given names to a local population of the more than 500 individual dolphins spotted near the Potomac’s mouth. After whom are many of the dolphins named?

A. Greek gods & goddesses

B. Flowers (females) & trees (male)

C. Literary characters

D. U.S. presidents & first ladies


1. B; 2. B; 3. Female; 4. D; 5. flukes swim, flippers steer; 6. B; 7. C; 8. A; 9. A; 10. D; 11. D


Kathleen Gaskell is the Bay Journal's copy and layout editor and author of the Chesapeake Challenge. Contact Kathleen at

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