Meet Rudolph: Clearwater Marine Aquarium welcomes rare rough-toothed dolphin

Pinellas County

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is welcoming its newest resident, Rudolph. He doesn’t have a red nose but he does have rough teeth because he a rare “Rough-toothed dolphin”.

CMA says they are one of two facilities in North America to care for the species.

“If you were to look at a tooth magnified, you’re going to see some vertical grooves or ridges, so that’s how they get the rough name rough-tooth,” said Abby Stone, Stranding Coordinator. Stone’s job with CMA is to work specifically with dolphins that were previously stranded.

“You guys most likely probably have not seen these guys,” said Evan Keim, Senior Animal Care Specialist at CMA.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration think there may be only 600 of these in the entire Gulf of Mexico,” said Bill Potts, formally known as the Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer for CMA, also known as “Hope the Dolphin’s BBF”.

Rudolph the dolphin is estimated to be between 2-5 years old, averaging at around 4-years-old.

According to CMA, Rudolph was stranded off Sanibel Island on December 16, 2019, and was transported to their rehabilitation facility at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, about 20 miles north of the aquarium.

“These guys are very social,” said Keim.

“So now, our buddy rudy has a best friend Rex,” said Potts.

Rex is another rough-toothed dolphin that was stranded and is new to the aquarium. He’s estimated to be between 5-7 years old, averaging at around 6-years-old.

The two have a lot in common. They both love fish and squid, and they both can’t hear well.

“They’re both deaf, so they can’t eco-locate to find their food,” said Potts.

These dolphins with rough teeth are causing hearts to go soft.

“They’re cute and funny at the same time,” said three little girls who enjoyed meeting Rudolph.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is very little known about the worldwide population of rough-toothed dolphins. They say it’s estimated that there are about 6,900 rough-toothed dolphins in US waters.

CMA says they will work with NOAA and its partners through research and conservation activities to further their understanding of this species.

You can meet Rudolph and Rex at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or you can see what they’re up to right now by watching the 24/7 live webcam on the CMA website.

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