About the Animals

The Creative Dolphin

They may not be as cute and cuddly as their bottlenose cousins, but rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) make up for it in a big way. Nicknamed "the creative dolphin", these pint-sized cetaceans are known for their playfulness and personality. They are highly social animals that are often seen swimming in tightly formed groups, almost on top of one another at times. They also show a great deal of interest in humans and anything else that catches their attention. Rough tooth's commonly skim along the surface of the water to visually examine people and interesting new things that may be nearby.

Despite these intriguing qualities, we know very little about this curious species. Rough-toothed dolphins can be found in tropical and temperate waters throughout most of the world. They primarily inhabit deeper waters which may be why most people are not aware of this fascinating species. In fact, very little is known about this species and few studies have been conducted. Occasionally, rough-toothed dolphins are found stranded and are rehabilitated at facilities like Gulf World. Dolphins that are too young or otherwise impaired are unable to be released because they would likely not survive in the wild. These non-releasable dolphins must be kept in human care, preferably with members of their own species or another compatible species. This was the case for each of the rough-toothed dolphins that we worked with who have had the chance to lead a life filled with companionship, excellent medical care, social and cognitive enrichment, and the adoration of loving staff and fans.







All things remarkable are surprisingly simple; albeit difficult to find.” ― Criss Jami

Where did these dolphins come from?

You will notice that almost all of these dolphins were stranded after a hurricane and most were near Florida along the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes can injure or confuse dolphins and cause them to be separated from their pod. Because they stranded on the Gulf Coast, this can help us learn more about the geographical distribution of rough-tooth dolphins in the United States. Even though they have been found in each major ocean, there are two recognized populations of rough-toothed dolphins in the U S. One population is located in Hawaiian waters and the other is located in the northern Gulf of Mexico!

They all have a unique story, distinctive personalities, and even some physical limitations that make each animal's story of survival truly inspirational. Some dolphins have identifiable features, like a snaggle tooth, notches or jagged edges on their dorsal fin, or darker coloring. Once you get to know them, you can identify them by their personality! For instance, some dolphins like to get their tail rubbed, wearing traffic cones, or sticking out their tongue.



Doris was stranded off the coast of Cape San Blas, FL after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. 



Kitana was stranded in Cape San Blas, FL in August 2009. She was deemed non-releasable due to significant hearing loss. 



Dagney was stranded after Hurricane Michael on the Mississippi coast and rehabilitated at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies before being moved to her forever home at Gulf World.  She was deemed non-releasable because of significant hearing loss. 

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Rex was stranded off of St. George Island, Florida in April 2019. Rex was deemed non-releasable due to hearing loss. While he was originally at Gulf World, he was moved to ClearWater Marine Aquarium. 


Astro was stranded in 2005 in Corpus Christi, TX and was named after the Houston Astros. He was deemed non-releasable due to significant hearing loss.



Ivan was stranded in Cape San Blas, FL in September 2004 following hurricane Ivan. He was deemed non-releasable because he was very young and still dependent on his mother.



Stan one of the smallest and youngest rough-toothed dolphins that we worked with. He was stranded in central Florida and rehabilitated by Sea World in Orlando. Stan was deemed non-releasable due to significant hearing loss.



Largo was stranded off of Key Largo, FL in 2004. She was rescued and rehabilitated then deemed non-releasable due to her young age.


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