On Sunday our class session revolved around tool use, pectoral fin contact and group living. Included in our discussion was outlining the pros and cons (or benefits and costs) of group living. The ocean environment is a major factor influencing the benefits. We discussed “Understanding Dolphins” and began brainstorming topics for our final papers. We practiced using the terms discussed in class when we were on the boat later in the day!
We enjoyed our enchilada soup lunch and got ready for the boat. We departed about 1500 and got a feel for the long search time that can go into finding wild dolphins. There were two or three Atlantic spotted dolphins, but only two stayed by the boat. The juvenile seemed very interested in the boat and did not appear afraid to stray from the other dolphin for short periods of time. We were able to observe the dolphins underwater. Though this encounter did not last long, it was still super interesting. The dolphins were very active, circling us and zipping around. The youngster showed its belly to us, giving us the chance to get some photo-ID pictures. There was some debate over the sex of the two dolphins, but the younger dolphin (with no spots) was definitely a female: thank you photos!
Back on the boat, we continued our search in the direction of home, since these dolphins were taking us farther from home. Like yesterday, we found more dolphins closer to shore! This time, it was bottlenose dolphins. It was so great to have the chance to compare the spotteds to the bottlenose. The space between individual dolphins was greater for the bottlenose, but it was clear they were still communicating and interacting. They were busy crater feeding, but we got some good looks, particularly when they came to breathe. Watching how they turn their head has us wondering about their laterality preferences! Out of nowhere, a nurse shark came into view! Kel thinks nurse sharks are being lazy, picking up the dolphins’ scraps. The shark stayed on the sea floor, following the dolphins as the dolphins searched for food. It was so cool to observe something that had just recently been described to us in class! With the sun setting, we had to call it a night and we headed back to shore.
We had the night off from reading and films, so we stuffed ourselves with tacos and ice cream – the biggest meal of the trip so far! We all rolled off to bed…
Until next time,