American Oceans

Is a Bottlenose Dolphin a Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivore?

The bottlenose dolphin enjoys a variety of tasty meals. They tend to feast on multiple kinds of fish, squid, and crustaceans (including shrimp and crabs). Some dolphins have even been known to dive deep down to find deep-sea fish!

bottlenose dolphins are carnivorous type of marine animals

Dolphins are carnivorous marine animals. 

What Determines a Bottlenose Dolphins Diet?

Depending on where the dolphin likes to live will dictate what it eats more of. For example, while all dolphins eat fish, dolphins closer to the shore tend to eat more crustaceans while dolphins more offshore enjoy squid more often.

person feeding bottlenose dolphin to eat fish

Bottlenose dolphins also have a big appetite! They are known for eating between 4 – 6% of their body weight every day, which equates to about 15 – 30 pounds. Pregnant and nursing dolphins may eat up to a whopping 8%.

A fun fact about bottlenose dolphins is that despite having teeth, they don’t chew their food! Rather, they swallow it whole.

If a bite is too big, dolphins will beat their meal against something (such as a rock, the sand, or even the water) to break it into smaller, more “swallowable” pieces. 

Hunting Behavior

Bottlenose dolphins have pretty interesting hunting habits! 

dolphin catching fish

If lone, individual fish are not available for an easy snack, dolphins tend to hunt as a group. They will often herd schools of fish into what is referred to as a “bait ball” before swimming through it and catching their meal.

Bottlenose dolphins are also known for stunning fish. Some have been caught flipping fish out of the water with their tails and catching them after they fall back into the water stunned and surprised.

They may also smack the water with their tails or use their sonar vocalization to stun fish, allowing for an easier meal.

bottlenose dolphin hunting fish under the sand

Some fish like to hide from dolphins under the sand. In this case, bottlenose dolphins will “crater feed.”

This is when they dive nose first into the sand to catch any buried fish, leaving a crater like appearance.

If the area they are swimming in is muddy or silty, bottlenose dolphins have been known to create a “net of mud” with their tails in order to make the fish move in the direction the rest of the dolphin pod is located.

bottlenose dolphin dive deeper to hunt for food

All in all, these carnivores like to work together for their food. Apparently family meals are not just beneficial for human relationships, but dolphin ones too!


Despite bottlenose dolphins looking like one of the sweetest and innocent animals of the ocean, they are hardcore carnivores!

two bottlenose dolphins

On top of this, they have developed some fairly interesting hunting techniques in order to make their carnivorous lifestyle more exhilarating.  

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