Tuesday morning began with biscuits (yum!) and new Cherrios (Honey Nut). Our main class session covered mixed species groups, specifically the bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins of Bimini. We discussed the possibility of hybrids and known cases of hybridization, including Dall’s & harbor porpoises. We discussed the possible functions of the mixed species groups here in Bimini, with the most support for a social function, more specifically a reproductive function.
After our soup & salad lunch, we put on (lots of!) sunscreen, filled water bottles and headed to the boat. We departed just after 1500 and we got to see a helicopter doing a photo shoot of two powerboats. It was soooo close to the boats and spinning around; it was cool to watch. Then we really began our journey to look for dolphins, starting with a large fish sighting in the shallows – perhaps a barracuda? There were a lot of flying fish today, coasting away from us as we approached. With the sun bearing down on us, we took a much needed swim break, even jumping off the bow into the blue water. We jumped in without snorkel gear, giving us a fast comparison between ocean swimming with fins and without. Not long after, as soon as our sunscreen was reapplied, we spotted the dolphins! It was a group of eight Atlantic spotted dolphins. At one point, they joined together in a line and surfed the waves west. They were also into bow riding today with four dolphins on the bow together at one point. We watched a pair make pec-pec contact, actively rubbing each other while they simultaneously rode the bow. We eagerly waited for the word to “gear up,” and then we got it! Once in the water, we noticed right away how drastically different the water clarity was compared to yesterday. The water was so clear and again, the dolphins came so close to us. While they stuck around, they seemed very interested in us. We saw more pec-pec contact between adults and saw a juvenile who was missing the tip of its dorsal fin. They played in the sand, chasing fish and rubbing around. With the dolphins drifting off just a bit, Captain Kat took the boat in a wide, slow circle, to see if the dolphins were interested in a bow ride and saying hello to us once more. They did, surfing the waves back through our group. After a while there were just two dolphins left, a presumed mother-calf pair. This pair was very interactive with each other, including swimming in melon to genital positioning from the calf to the mom. They also investigated the sand; at one point, they were chasing a small fish (like yesterday) and at another the calf was rolling on or near a conch! Later, the mom put her rostrum to the calf’s genitals as they coasted to the sea floor. We aren’t sure what this interaction might have meant: could the mom have been guiding the calf to the bottom? Reassuring the calf? Teaching a social behavior? Once the pair swam out of view, we climbed back aboard the boat and headed toward home, still searching for dolphins…
Close to the island, we saw another mom and calf pair! The calf was very energetic, flipping and leaping out of the water. Then, we’d see it swim back close to mom. This pair was not interested in bow riding, but we enjoyed seeing them zipping about. Once we lost sight of them, the late hour meant we couldn’t keep searching, so we continued our ride back to the harbor.
Dinner was a-maz-ing! Ms. Stephie cooked her yummy baked chicken, peas ‘n rice and mac ‘n cheese. We were excited that the peas in peas ‘n rice are actually pigeon peas. It was all so good and a little spicy. To cool our mouths, we finished the evening with ice cream! Though we may have overdone the food a bit, we went to bed tired and happy!
Colonel Potcakes (EKU 2015)