Bottlenose dolphins have migrated to the Bay Area for the first time, adapting to the changing environment

Bottlenose dolphins, the marine mammals best known for doing clever tricks in animal parks, have created a home in the Bay Area after previously spending their lives in Southern California and Baja, Mexico.

Surfers catch waves with them at Ocean Beach, hikers have spotted their mottled gray backs at Stinson and Montara Beach, and they’ve explored the edges of San Francisco Bay, at all different times of year.

Part of a population called California coastal bottlenose dolphins, the animals’ smarts may be helping them adapt to climate change. Their move north, which has happened over decades and has been documented for the first time in a new study, began when water temperatures rose in Central and Northern California. Their ability to adapt and find new habitats may end up making them a success story in the face of global warming.

“When you talk about adaptation and the ability to persist in the changing environment, bottlenose dolphins are a good example of some of the species that are likely to do better than other species,” said David Weller, director of the marine mammal and turtle division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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