Justin Gregg

Justin Gregg

Justin Gregg is a Senior Research Associate with the Dolphin Communication Project. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/justindgregg or visit his website at http://www.justingregg.com

 

Finding Lamda

While we wait to see "Lamda" (DCPID#104) again, we thought you'd like to see how he was doing during our January observation. The video isn't edited - just the real recording of how he was swimming (great, by the way). The rescue, rehab, release and monitoring of this guy has been a serious team effort involving: Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization, The Wild Dolphin Project, Atlantis Bahamas and the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

We're hoping to see more of #104 soon. And certainly during our 2019 Bimini field season, which begins in April. If you want to come search for Lamda with us, snag one of the remaining spaces on our 30 Jun - 5 July 2019 eco-tour! Click here for all the details and get your deposit in now.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - Lamda - 7 Jan 2019 from Dolphin Communication Project on Vimeo.

 

Read more in our previous blog post

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The Lost Dolphins of Tenacatita | Episode 16
20 February 2019

The Lost Dolphins of Tenacatita | Episode 16

When Hurricane Jova hit the west coast of Mexico in 2011, a group of dolphins living near Tenacatita Bay disappeared! Where did they go and what happened to them? And did they ever return? Find out in this week’s episode.

The primary article being discussed in this episode is:

Ortega-Ortiz, Christian & Wonneberger, Elena & Martínez-Serrano, Ibiza & Kono-Martínez, Tadashi & Villegas Zurita, Francisco & M. Enríquez Paredes, Luis & Llamas González, Myriam & Olivos, Aramis & Liñán-Cabello, Marco & Gerardo Verduzco-Zapata, Manuel. (2019). Consequences Potentially Related to a Meteorological Event on a Resident Group of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Mexican Pacific. Aquatic Mammals. 45. 99-105. 10.1578/AM.45.1.2019.99

The research articles mentioned in the podcast involving how hurricanes affect dolphins are as follows:

Fearnbach, Holly & W. Durban, J & Parsons, K & Claridge, Diane. (2012). Photographic mark-recapture analysis of local dynamics within an open population of dolphins. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America. 22. 1689-700. 10.2307/41722883

Miller, Lance & Mackey, Angela & Hoffland, Tim & Solangi, Moby & Kuczaj, Stan. (2010). Potential effects of a major hurricane on Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) reproduction in the Mississippi Sound. Marine Mammal Science. 26. 707 - 715. 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2010.00371.x

More research from Christian Ortega-Ortiz at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christian_Ortega-Ortiz

This research originated from the University of Colima in Mexico: https://www.ucol.mx/

Get in touch with The Dolphin Pod via social media at https://twitter.com/dolphincommu or https://facebook.com/dolphincommunicationproject/

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Timesharing dolphins | Episode 15
20 February 2019

Timesharing dolphins | Episode 15

We’ve got a brand-new format for The Dolphin Pod that is equal parts science and magic. Yes, MAGIC! We’ll be discussing a recently published scientific article about bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste that engage in what news outlets have dubbed timesharing – with two dolphin groups using the same habitat at different times of day. Laura and Justin use the magic of podcasting to transport themselves onto a small boat off the coast of Slovenia where they see “first hand” what these timesharing dolphins get up to. What do you think of the new format? Get in touch with us via social media at https://twitter.com/dolphincommu or https://facebook.com/dolphincommunicationproject/ and let us know! Kje si!

Show notes:

This episode features research from Morigenos – the Slovenian Marine Mammal Society. Learn more about their work at: https://www.morigenos.org/
 
The primary article being discussed is: 
Genov T., Centrih T., Kotnjek P., Hace A. 2019. Behavioural and temporal partitioning of dolphin social groups in the northern Adriatic Sea. Marine Biology 166: 11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-018-3450-8
 
We also discuss the following article: 
Genov T., Jepson P.D., Barber J.L., Hace A., Gaspari S., Centrih T., Lesjak J., Kotnjek P. 2019. Linking organochlorine contaminants with demographic parameters in free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins from the northern Adriatic Sea. Science of the Total Environment 657: 200-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.025
 
More info on the biopsy darts used to take samples from wild dolphins:
http://www.kaosa.org.br/publications/23_Fruet_et_al_2016_Biopsy_darting.pdf
 
These darts are quite small and cause minimal discomfort to the dolphin: "Tips measured 25mm in length and 8mm in diameter and had a cylindrical punch fitted with three internal barbs (to hold a sample in place) attached to modified darts. A cylindrical foam stopper caused the bolt to rebound after impact and limited the penetration depth to 20mm."

For more information on the other bottlenose dolphin groups mentioned, visit website for the following research groups: 
 
Slovenian language (Slovene) tips were taken from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phrlqxje9eE
 
And this is how you write the Slovene phrase “kje si!” which means something like “what’s up”. Here’s an actual Slovenian Eurovision singer (Anika Horvat) singing the words kje si. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mF9C1zFNw8 Our pronunciation is not too far off, eh?
 
This episode features Slovenian folk music from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E54IhTh5OhY
 
More info about the beautiful Slovenian village of Piran here: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/slovenia/karst-and-coast/piran
 
The image used for this episode was taken from a post found on the Twitter account of Tilen Genov, lead author of the scientific article being discussed: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dusxl8OWkAAsG3c.jpg
 
This episode was made possible through generous donations from supporters of the Dolphin Communication Project. We rely on public support to produce The Dolphin Pod. Please consider contributing to our GoFundMe campaign to help make future episodes possible: https://gofundme.com/the-dolphin-pod

What did you think of this episode? Get in touch with us via social media at https://twitter.com/dolphincommu or https://facebook.com/dolphincommunicationproject/ and let us know! 

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Relaunch Teaser for The Dolphin Pod (Episode 14)
20 February 2019

Relaunch Teaser for The Dolphin Pod (Episode 14)

The Dolphin Pod is back! After a 10 year hiatus, everyone's favorite dolphin science podcast is back in action. This time around, Justin Gregg will be joined by a new co-host; the hilarious and ultra-talented actor, musician, and improviser Laura Teasdale. Justin and Laura will be discussing dolphin science topics including cool new research, dolphin news stories, and surprising and entertaining dolphin facts and trivia. New full-length episodes are scheduled for early 2019. In the meantime, you can support the relaunch of the show by heading over to our fundraiser at https://gofundme.com/the-dolphin-pod.

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Weiloo

 

Weiloo (ID#110): Weiloo is an older, juvenile, female Atlantic spotted dolphin. DCP has been observing her off the coast of Bimini, The Bahamas, since 2015, when she was already independent from her mom.

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Weiloo, enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
Is this a gift?
Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Weiloo on Facebook (she has her very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Weiloo's antics, and you can interact with other Weiloo fans and adoptive parents.

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Poppy McVie

 

Poppy McVie (ID#112): Poppy, a female Atlantic spotted dolphin, has been observed by DCP since 2015. We recognize her by a common peduncle notch and two atypical scars – on her face and base of her tail.

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Poppy, enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
Is this a gift?
Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Poppy on Facebook (she has her very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Poppy's antics, and you can interact with other Poppy fans and adoptive parents.

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Maria Maust-Mohl , Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Maria Maust-Mohl , Ph.D.

Dr. Maria Maust-Mohl received her Master's degree from Columbia University in Conservation Biology and PhD from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York in Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience. Her dissertation focused on the behavior and acoustic signals of hippopotamus and the evolutionary relationship between dolphins and hippos. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY where she studies animal behavior and communication, as well as human perceptions of animals and animal thinking. Since 2015, she has brought students from Manhattan College to Bimini for a study abroad course in connection with Hunter College. She is currently collaborating with DCP to examine sightings of bottlenose dolphins near Bimini.

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Vee

 

 

Vee (ID#101) - Vee, a female Atlantic spotted dolphin, has been observed by DCP since 2012. We monitor her spot development carefully – so far, she has no nicks or scars! Because of this, researchers rely on her spot pattern to recognize her, year after year. Thankfully, she seems fairly interested in the boat and our cameras, which allows us to document her new spot development and associations over time.

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Vee enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
Is this a gift?
Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Vee on Facebook (she has her very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Vee's antics, and you can interact with other Vee fans and adoptive parents.

Sulfur

 

 

Sulfur, DCP ID#102, is a juvenile, female Atlantic spotted dolphin. DCP has been observing her off the coast of Bimini, The Bahamas since 2013. She is recognizable even before we enter the water, as she has two distinct notches in the center of her dorsal fin. In 2013, Sulfur also suffered an injury to her peduncle. Though this injury healed very well, it has left a permanent scar. Neither of these markings slow her down though! She is a busy dolphin, seen in a variety of social groups. Like “Seabeagle” (ID#106), Sulfur has also been observed with fellow juveniles, Inka (#93) and Paul (#99).

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Sulfur, enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
Is this a gift?
Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Sulfur on Facebook (she has her very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Sulfur's antics, and you can interact with other Sulfure fans and adoptive parents.

Riley Macgregor

B.S. University of Wisconsin-River Falls

 Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Lab, University of Southern Mississippi

 

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Seabeagle


Seabeagle (ID#106) is a young, female Atlantic spotted dolphin. She was first observed off the coast of Bimini, The Bahamas in 2013. She has been seen every year since, including quite a bit in 2016! She was recognizable even before she had many spots as she an injury to the center of her fluke (tail). Unfortunately, she suffered an additional fluke injury and is now missing the majority of the left side of her tail. This doesn't slow her down though, and she is often seen with other juveniles, including Inka (#93) and Paul (#99).

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Seabeagle, enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee.. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
Is this a gift?
Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Seabeagle on Facebook (he has his very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Seabeagle's antics, and you can interact with other Seabeagle fans and adoptive parents.

J. Daisy Kaplan, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

J. Daisy Kaplan, Ph.D.

Daisy Kaplan has been studying the behavior of dolphins and whales for over a decade. She completed her Master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where she studied juvenile social interactions among wild spotted dolphins in White Sand Ridge, Bahamas, while leading ecotourist groups for Oceanic Society. She then served as a researcher and naturalist for The Whale Center of New England, studying the behavior of humpback whales. Her PhD work looked at the acoustic characteristics and contextual use of whistles in sympatric species of wild bottlenose and spotted dolphins in Bimini, The Bahamas. Her current area of study is in communication and the use of biphonation in dolphins. She is a Professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

During her Master's research, Daisy collaborated with Kathleen; Daisy's relationship with DCP strengthened as she began utilizing Bimini for her Ph.D. work. As our collaborations grew, it became more and more apparent that we are better together! We look forward to more joint publications and education programs as well as a general cooperative interaction that means more data collection and more project results!

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Marie Trone, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Marie Trone, Ph.D.

Marie Trone, PhD, is a Professor of Biology at Valencia College,  Kissimmee, Florida and an Adjunct Professor, Brain and Behavior  Science at University of Southern Mississippi.

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Shane Kanatous, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Shane Kanatous, Ph.D.

 

 

Assistant Professor
Office: Anatomy/Zoology Building E308
Phone: 970-491-0782
Email
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

I am a Brooklyn, New York native transformed into the rare hybrid of  a Texas Aggie who worked for the University of Texas System and is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University.

 

I have often been asked how a kid from New York City became interested in marine biology and physiology. As a child, I remember watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and being fascinated by the ocean and its marine life. From there, my love of the marine world continued to grow as I read all of Cousteau’s books and anything else I could about the ocean. Since my days in grammar school, I wanted to be an Oceanographer/Marine Biologist. During my senior year at Xaverian High School, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a career in marine biology with the Director of the New York Aquarium, Dr. George Ruggieri. Dr. Ruggieri encouraged me to pursue a degree in Marine Science at Southampton College of Long Island University.

 

In addition to an excellent academic program, Southampton offered an extensive internship and co-operative educational program, which played an essential role in sculpting my future career. As a sophomore, I undertook my first great adventure, when I spent a semester at sea crewing on a 110 ft schooner from Glouchester, Massachusetts north to Appledore, Maine and then down the Atlantic coast, ending in the Dominican Republic. While on seamester, my crewmates and I were required to take a full semester’s worth of courses, which included Marine ecology, Ichthyology, Literature and of course sailing. What made the trip so amazing, besides the dolphins, whales, and sharks we were seeing on a daily basis, was the fact that everything we were learning about in the classroom was only a field trip away. My semester at sea has provided memories and experiences that I still call upon some fifteen years later. During my college career, I became fascinated with how an animal’s body works while swimming underwater, or gliding through waves. What I came to learn was that I was fascinated with the physiology of animals. My interest in physiology was further solidified during my senior year when I became an intern for Dr. Gerry Kooyman in the Physiological Research Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California. During that year, we studied the diving physiology and metabolism of California sea lions, harbor seals, thick-billed murres, and king and emperor penguins. At Scripps, I developed the basic ideas that would later develop into my Ph.D. topic and set the groundwork for our current project in Antarctica.

 

After my time at Scripps, I went on to receive my PhD. in exercise and skeletal muscle physiology from TexasA&MUniversity under the guidance of Dr. Randall W. Davis. During my Ph.D., I had the opportunity to participate in a host of different studies. In specific projects, I have studied diving behavior and physiology, fuel homeostasis, reproductive behavior and energetics, foraging behavior and energetics, thermoregulation, and swimming energetics in a variety of marine and terrestrial mammals. My research has not only been limited to physiology, but has spanned a number of biological and oceanographic disciplines investigating different ecological questions. In additional projects, I have studied reproductive and courting behavior, migratory patterns, deep-sea benthic environments and the distribution marine mammals in relation to oceanographic characteristics in the Gulf of Mexico. This diverse research experience enables me to provide a broad perspective to my current research dealing with physiological and ecological topics.

 

Upon completion of my dissertation, I returned to the University of California at San Diego as a National Institute of Health Minority Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Physiology section of the School of Medicine working with Dr. Peter Wagner and Dr. Odile Mathieu-Costello. My research dealt with biochemical and morphological adaptations of skeletal muscles to hypoxia in breath-hold diving and high altitude adapted mammals and birds. After San Diego, I joined the lab of Dr. R. Sanders Williams at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. While in Dallas I started to learn the molecular techniques that are now a core area of my current research. After our last expedition to the ice, I moved from Dallas to Fort Collins Colorado; where I joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at Colorado State University as an Assistant Professor.

 

While my basic ideas have matured beyond being the next Jacque Cousteau, I guess the answer to the question of how a kid from New York City becomes a marine biologist is, that he followed his heart and dared to dream big. The best advice I can give is to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, and never let anyone or anything discourage you from achieving those dreams. Seek the advice and guidance of your parents, teachers and mentors, and remember the road may not always be smooth, but the journey will be an amazing one.

 

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Our Donors

The Dolphin Communication Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that relies on support from the public to conduct our scientific research and offer education opportunities to people of all ages. Your generosity is the lifeblood of our organization, and we could not operate without the donations we receive. Every scientific article we've published and every student mentorship opportunity we've provided has been made possible by financial support from people just like you. If you'd like to donate to DCP, please visit our donation page.

We would like to thank the following individuals and organizations who have so generously supported DCP:

Corporate Sponsors (Past & Present)

My Pet Needs That

Nate Riley, Author Bahamas Bucket List for Divers, Bimini Edition

Wildlife Acoustics

GreenWorks

ChameleonJohn

 

Individual Donors

Peter Hyde

Kathleen Dudzinski

John Anderson

Sybille and Tom Saunders

Sharon McCormick

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Bill Sperling

Susan Duval

Ron Burda

DCP also thanks all the generous donors who have asked to stay anonymous. Thank you all!

 

Grants

*COMING SOON*

 

Special Partnerships

DCP is a 1% for the Planet nonprofit partner. Click here to learn more about becoming a 1% member company so that your donation to DCP and other nonprofits can make an even bigger impact.1-percent-recipient

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Dawn Melzer, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Dawn Melzer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Sacred Heart University, Connecticut
 
Dr. Melzer received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.  Her previous research projects focused on cognitive development in young children, specifically mental state understanding and executive function skills. Currently Dr. Melzer is collaborating with DCP and other researchers on a comparative study investigating the use of creativity assessments in marine mammals and young children.   

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Allison B. Kaufman, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Allison B. Kaufman, Ph.D.

Research scientist, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut

Allison B. Kaufman is research scientist with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, where she also teaches as a adjunct  professor in the departments of Marine Biology and Psychology.  Allison holds a doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside.  She has published on language and cognition in several species of non-human animals, in addition to measurement techniques for observing animal behavior.  Currently, her main interest is in the application of research on human constructs, such as creativity and intelligence, to animals.  She is the co-editor of two books, Animal Creativity and Innovation, and Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science.

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Twenty Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins – my new book!
20 February 2019

Twenty Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins – my new book!

Dear friends,

I am super psyched to announce the publication of my latest book, Twenty Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins! You can purchase a copy of the book for just $9.99 ($3.99 on Kindle) on Amazon.com at this link, or on bol.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk, and kobo.

It's full of fun dolphin science trivia, and is aimed at kids/grown-ups aged 12 and over. If you like the fun kind of dolphin science info featured on DCP's podcast, The Dolphin Pod, you will surely love this book too!

Happy reading!

-Justin

Here's the official press release:

New book of dolphin science trivia for young adults

Stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know about dolphins

Antigonish, Nova Scotia, November 30, 2015 – Did you know that dolphins don’t drink water, don’t chew their food, and don’t sleep? Despite being one of the world’s best loved and most studied animals, dolphins continue to surprise us with their impressive skills, strange behavior, and bizarre abilities. Dolphin researcher Justin Gregg highlights the most eyebrow-raising findings from the world of dolphin science in his latest book: Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins.

“This book is a lovingly curated collection of weird, unexpected, and remarkable bits of dolphin trivia,” said Gregg, “the kind of factoids I regularly break out at parties to get people talking about the zany world of dolphin science.” Showcasing some of the less well-known dolphin traits like their ability to call each other by name, sense magnetic fields, or their immunity to drowning, this book aims to impress even the most knowledgeable dolphin aficionado or trivia buff. Gregg has travelled the world studying dolphins in the wild, and supplements the scientific information in the book with his own (often humorous) take on dolphin behavior. Aimed at an audience ages 12 and over, 22 Fantastical Facts about Dolphins translates the latest scientific findings into fun and witty prose that will delight dolphin lovers everywhere.

Outside the Lines Press is a family run independent publisher based in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. “Throughout the publication of this book, I have relied on local editors and designers,” said Gregg. “Nova Scotia is chalk full of amazing artists and writers, and I am proud to show that a small indie press based in a tiny rural town can create world-class books using only local talent.”

22 Fantastical Facts about Dolphins retails for $9.99 US and can be purchased from Amazon, or other online retailers. For more information visit www.outsidethelinespress.com. For questions for Justin, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Justin on Twitter @justindgregg and Outside the Lines Press @OTLPress

 

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Dolphins sometimes carry weapons
20 February 2019

Dolphins sometimes carry weapons

*The following blog post is an excerpt from the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins*

Psychologists have learned that holding an otherwise innocent object in your hand – like an umbrella – makes onlookers perceive you as more dangerous than if you were empty-handed. This same, subconscious fear of weapon-like objects is lodged in the minds of many of our primate cousins. Our closest relatives – chimpanzees – appeal to this weapon-fear bias by waving tree branches and logs in the air when trying to make themselves look larger and more intimidating. And by golly it works. As anyone who has spent time in the African jungles can attest to, a giant male chimpanzee screaming and running at you with a tree-branch in his hands is full-on terrifying. This is one of the reasons I prefer to study dolphins. They don’t have hands, so the chances they will club me or my fellow researchers to death in the open ocean are small.

Or so I thought.

It now appears that dolphins are known to wield weapons too. The Amazon river dolphin – also called the boto – has been observed carrying tree branches in its mouth. Since these river-bound dolphins live quite close to vegetation, it’s easy enough for them to get their hands mouths on weapon-like objects. They have been observed jutting their heads out of the water and waving sticks or branches around – a lot like chimpanzees.

Why do botos do this? Nobody has witnessed them actually assaulting other botos with their makeshift weapons, so it’s probably not meant as a tool to punish rivals. Then again, chimpanzees usually don’t hit each other with sticks – they just brandish them as a means of looking tougher. This is probably what is happening with the botos as well. It’s almost always the males who engage in this stick-thrashing behavior, and almost always when they’re around other males. Most of the time, these stick-carrying bouts end in some sort of aggressive encounter between the males. Tail slaps, biting, ramming – all kinds of unfriendly dolphin stuff.

Unsurprisingly, stick-wielding is often witnessed at times of the year when the females are most fertile. So it seems likely that males are trying to impress the ladies or otherwise scare their rivals by carrying weapon-like objects in their mouths. It might well be that the male dolphin who carries the biggest stick also has the best luck when it comes to mating.

Carrying sticks or other objects is an awkward thing for a dolphin to be doing. It will slow them down as they swim, and make it impossible to eat. Like much of dolphin behavior, it’s still a mystery as to why they do this. But I can guarantee you that a giant male Amazon river dolphin charging at me with a stick in its mouth is enough to keep me from wanting to swim in the Amazon. Well, that and the piranha.

 Want to read more zany dolphin science trivia?  Order a copy of the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins

 

 

 
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Dolphins don't sleep
20 February 2019

Dolphins don't sleep

*The following blog post is an excerpt from the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins*

Almost all animals that live in the ocean are able to breathe water – extracting the life-giving oxygen that’s swishing around in seawater with their gills. Crustaceans, fish, clams, amphibians – they all have gills, and don’t need (and generally prefer to avoid) air. But marine mammals – which include dolphins, whales, seals, manatees, sea lions, otters and a handful of others – still need access to air in order to get their oxygen. The ancestors of all marine mammals were air-breathing land-animals, and during their millions-of-years-long return to the ocean, none of them bothered to evolve gills or other anatomical features that would allow them to stay submerged in water 100% of the time.

Thanks to the “whatever, that’s good enough” attitude of evolution, dolphins are forced to stick their blowholes out of the water every few minutes in order to fill their lungs with oxygen-rich air. Some species can hold their breath longer than others, but most need to be at the surface a few dozen times every hour to breathe.

But if dolphins need to swim to the surface to breathe at regular intervals, how then do they ever get any sleep? Some species – like pilot whales – engage in behavior called logging where they float on the surface of the ocean with their blowholes above the waves. This seems a pretty logical way for a dolphin to sleep since it’s able to keep its airway exposed at all times. But the thing is, most species of dolphin don’t sleep at the surface like this.

In fact, dolphins don’t really sleep at all.

When humans fall asleep, our conscious minds shut down, leaving the more primitive parts of the brain found in our brainstem – like the medulla oblongata – to take care of unconscious processes like breathing or making the heart beat. But the medulla oblongata in dolphins does not control their breathing. Dolphins must think about every breath they take using the parts of the brain that – in humans – is mostly shut off when we sleep. This means that dolphins need to remain conscious at all times or they simply stop breathing. In fact, if a dolphin ever does lose consciousness – like if you give it a general anesthetic – it will suffocate pretty quickly.

Luckily, dolphins have evolved a workaround. All animal brains must enter periods of sleep or restfulness in order to survive. Nobody is really sure why, but if an animal is denied sleep for long enough, it will die. Dolphins have found a way to get the rest they need by sleeping one half of their brain at a time. Dolphin brains, like all mammal brains, are divided into two hemispheres. Dolphins are able to shut down just one hemisphere at a time and enter into something called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. This allows for one half of their brain to go offline while the other stays awake, so dolphins can continue swimming, watch for predators, and return to the surface to breathe with the awake part of their brain.

Dolphins in this half-asleep mode usually swim lazily near the surface. Each half of the brain will sleep for a couple of hours before waking up and letting the other half get some shut-eye. And it really is shut-eye in most cases – you can usually tell which half of a dolphin’s brain is asleep by looking at their eyes: the one connected to the sleeping half is shut while the other one is open. Dolphins often sleep like this at night time, and typically for about 8 hours per day – not unlike most humans. Well, except for the half-closed-eye thing.

Scientists have tested dolphins to see just how awake they really are when sleeping one half of their brain. In one experiment, dolphins were asked to touch a paddle every time they heard a tone. The tone was played at random every few minutes. Researchers kept producing the tones all day and all night for days at a time without the dolphins messing up, or even displaying signs of being tired. The experiment ended after 5 days, but probably could have been kept up forever. The dolphins, you see, weren’t tired because they were able to sleep one half of their brain as needed, with the other half wide-awake and able to concentrate on the (really boring sounding) paddle task.

When it comes to staying awake and maintaining constant vigilance, it’s dolphin mothers that are the true insomniacs. Newborn dolphins hitch a ride with mom by swimming right next to them, getting sucked into the wake that their mother’s body creates while she swims through the water. If a dolphin calf positions itself in just the right spot next to mom, it will be propelled through the water without having to swim very hard, which helps it conserve energy. In order to make sure their newborns stay afloat and don’t get too tuckered out, dolphin mothers need to keep swimming at all times in order to create this protective swim-bubble for their calves. Spend too much time logging near the surface, and their little ones might sink. So dolphin moms just keep swimming without a break for days/weeks/months until their calf is strong enough to handle the world on its own. They likely engage in unihemispheric slow-wave sleep at some point, but to the casual observer it looks like they don’t sleep at all.

Based on my own experiences raising a human infant, this “total lack of sleep for months at a time” thing sounds pretty familiar…

Want to read more zany dolphin science trivia?  Order a copy of the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins

 

 

 
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Dolphins almost never drown
20 February 2019

Dolphins almost never drown

*The following blog post is an excerpt from the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins*

Being an air-breathing animal living in the ocean brings with it a number of challenges. Chief among them is trying not to drown. The paradox/problem of living in an aquatic environment but needing to be at the surface to breathe is something that manatees, sea turtles, whales, and dolphins have to cope with on a daily basis. But for dolphins, drowning in the traditional sense (which involves inhaling water into your lungs) is not really the problem.

Dolphins, you see, are sort of immune to drowning.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like crazy nonsense. Don’t hundreds of thousands of dolphins drown in fishing nets each year? Well yes, a huge number of dolphins are killed by fishing nets each year. But no, most dolphins trapped in nets don’t drown.

They suffocate.

What’s the difference? It all has to do with what’s happening with a dolphin’s blowhole when they are trapped under water. Dolphins are conscious breathers. This means that a dolphin must think about and decide on every breath it takes. Humans, in contrast, have the ability to let our brainstem take over the breathing duties, allowing us to continue to take breaths even when unconscious or asleep. Dolphins do not have this luxury.

This conscious-breathing setup means dolphins have evolved a strange relationship with their blowholes. A dolphin’s blowhole – which is the only pathway to a dolphin’s lungs – is closed by a sort of flap, which is attached to a very strong set of muscles. When closed, this flap creates a water-tight seal. The blowhole flap remains – by default – in the closed position. Below the blowhole are a series of internal flaps, valves, and other fleshy portals all of which create their own airtight seals – essentially creating four separate barriers between the outside air and a dolphin’s lungs. So if a dolphin is just hanging about in the ocean not thinking about taking a breath, it doesn’t have to worry about letting water into its lungs – the blowhole and other muscle-seals are tightly shut, and waiting on orders from the dolphin’s conscious mind to open up and let in air.

This means that if a dolphin were to ever be knocked unconscious, he/she would sink to the seafloor, and come to rest at the bottom with their blowhole firmly shut. Should the dolphin fail to awaken before they run out of oxygen, they will die – not from drowning (that is, inhaling water), but from suffocation.
Something similar happens if a dolphin were to be trapped in a fishing net. Humans, when trapped under water and in desperate need of air, will almost always open their mouths and make one final, desperate attempt to breathe, sucking water into their lungs. It is rare for a human to suffocate under water without taking a final breath that fills their lungs with water.

A dolphin, on the other hand, is far less likely to inhale water this way. Although they might crave air just as desperately as a human, the blowhole and sphincter-seal system in their nasal cavity typically remains in the default, shut position.

Occasionally, dolphins that are sick might accidentally inhale water and drown if they are too weak to keep their heads above water. And some dolphins trapped in nets are so overcome by panic that they are able to override the seal-system and open their blowholes, allowing water into their lungs.

But it is likely that most dolphins trapped in a net will ultimately succumb to suffocation as they run out of oxygen, and die with their blowhole closed. This is a terrible, if all too common fate for a dolphin, or any other air-breathing sea creature.

Want to read more zany dolphin science trivia?  Order a copy of the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins

 

 

 
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Dolphins sometimes have backward dorsal fins
20 February 2019

Dolphins sometimes have backward dorsal fins

*The following blog post is an excerpt from the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins*

Spinner dolphins are pretty bizarre as far as dolphins go. Their habit of leaping out of the water and spinning around at high velocity is just odd – not something other species of dolphins usually do. It’s made even more bizarre by the fact that nobody knows why they do it. It might be to shake off pesky suckerfish that are latched onto their sensitive skin. Or maybe it’s a form of communication, or a mating display. Or, as is likely the case for lots of dolphin behavior, it’s just something fun to do.

It’s not just that spinner dolphins act strange. They also look strange. An adult male spinner dolphin typically has a huge bump just behind its genital area called a ventral hump. The older a male dolphin is, the bigger its hump. So what’s in the hump? Nothing important really – mostly connective tissue. And what’s the point of a hump? Like many weird anatomical structures seen only on males of a species (like moose antlers or peacock tails), its sole purpose is to advertise how strong/awesome the male is, which both intimidates rivals and attracts the lady dolphins. Some other species of dolphins, like common dolphins, also grow a little hump for similar purposes. But nothing rivals the size and prominence of an adult male spinner dolphin’s crazy-looking hump.

Adult male spinner dolphins also have an impossibly strange-looking dorsal fin. It looks exactly like it’s been stuck on backwards. Instead of the fin curving from front to back – like you see in almost all other dolphin, shark, and fish species – it curves towards the front. As the males age, their dorsal fins change shape. When they are young calves, their fins are the normal size and shape. But once they reach full maturity, the fin loses its backwards curve and looks more like a triangle. As they continue to age, it starts pitching forward.

So what’s going on here? Probably more of the same “check me out ladies” kind of shenanigans that you find with their ventral humps. It might be the case that a backwards fin makes it harder to swim, so if an adult male can still manage to be at the top of his game with this kind of physical “handicap,” then other males know to leave this tough-guy alone. And the ladies will know that he’s probably good dad-material. Female spinner dolphins also have a reverse-fin sometimes, so it’s not just a male thing.

Male spinner dolphins also have odd-looking upturned or curled tail flukes. This might be yet another anatomical oddity that is meant to attract the ladies. Or it might help them swim faster. Nobody knows. Bottom line: adult male spinner dolphins look like they’ve been crafted out of playdough by a toddler who has no idea what a dolphin should look like.

Want to read more zany dolphin science trivia?  Order a copy of the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins

 

 

 
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Dolphins have ears in their jaws
20 February 2019

Dolphins have ears in their jaws

*The following blog post is an excerpt from the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins*

Whales and dolphins evolved from furry mammals with hoof-like feet that roamed the Earth 50 million years ago. Called Pakicetus, these animals looked like a cross between a dog, a cat, and a tiny, angry hippopotamus. They walked on four legs, had a snout with eyes on the front of their heads, and sported cute little gerbil-like ears.

As natural selection began the process of transforming Pakicetus into the modern-day dolphin, the ancestors of dolphins lost many anatomical features that weren’t helpful to them in their new aquatic environment. They traded in their body hair for a thick layer of blubber to help keep them warm. Their gangly limbs were transformed into sleek flippers and flukes – far more useful for propelling them through the water. And those cute little gerbil-ears – which would have slowed them down in the water – disappeared altogether.

The visible part of Pakicetus’ external ear – that floppy little pancake that most extinct and living mammal species have on the sides or tops of their heads (including humans) – is called an auricle or pinna. It acts almost like a satellite dish that amplifies sound and directs it toward the ear hole. If you look closely at the side of a dolphin’s head, you can still see a tiny pin-prick where their ear hole is, but the pinna itself is completely gone.

 But it wasn’t just the pinna that underwent a radical change as Pakicetus evolved. The strangest transformation took place under the hood. The tiny ear hole seen in modern dolphins, which originally transported sound waves to the middle or inner ear, no longer serves any purpose at all. Dolphins’ ear canals are completely blocked up with fibrous tissue, ear wax, and other fleshy debris. Sound is no longer able to make its way from a dolphin’s ear hole to its inner ear.

How then do dolphins hear at all? This was a question that stumped scientists back in the 1940s when they first began examining dolphins’ hearing anatomy. Dolphins clearly have very sensitive hearing, and are able to detect sounds at extremely high frequencies, well beyond what a human or even a dog could hear. But how were dolphins transporting sounds from the outside world into their inner ears if they had blocked-up ear canals?

It turns out that all the work that used to be done by the pinna – amplifying sound and directing it to a dolphin’s inner ears – is now done by a dolphin’s lower jaw. A dolphin’s jaw is filled with a kind of fatty substance that leads directly up into their middle ear. As sound waves travel through the water, they are absorbed by the dolphin’s jaw and are directed up along this fatty canal. With a jaw bone on each side of its head, a dolphin is able to use its jaws much like we would use pinna on the sides of our head – allowing them to pinpoint where a sound is coming from. And since the fat in their jaws is similar in density to water, this allows sound waves to travel easily to their inner ears.

This fancy new lower-jaw hearing system is made extra effective with the help of dolphins’ teeth. The more-or-less evenly spaced rows of 22 teeth that dolphins have in each jaw actually help them to amplify sound. Their teeth act a bit like an antenna, with the teeth resonating at frequencies that dolphins use for their echolocation. This hearing system likely evolved in tandem with dolphins’ echolocation ability.

Although dolphins might have lost their cute gerbil-ears, they appear to have traded them in for some rather sophisticated auditory technology. It’s yet another bizarre feature of an animal that has taken a rather unorthodox evolutionary path.

Want to read more zany dolphin science trivia?  Order a copy of the book Twenty-Two Fantastical Facts about Dolphins

 

 

 
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Paul

 

Paul (#99)  has been observed off Bimini since 2011, the first summer after he was born. In the early years, when he was always by his mom (Leslie, #80)’s side, the pair spent much of their time with Lil’ Jess (#35) and her calf. Paul is easily recognized by the double notch in his peduncle. Paul Alexander Landis, aka Paul or PAL, was named in 2015 by Carl & Sylvia Landis, in memory of their son, Paul Alexander Landis, who loved the ocean.

Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version, and $35 for the hardcopy version. See the "What's in your Adoption Kit?" below to learn more about what you'll receive in each version of the dolphin adoption kit. Adoptions are valid for a full year.

To adopt Paul, enter the name you would like to appear on your personalized adoption certificate below and click on 'add to cart' to get started. Adoption kits cost $30 for the electronic version (no shipping required), and $35 for the hardcopy version. Hardcopy adoption kits include free U.S. shipping (allow 2-3 weeks to receive your kit); expedited US shipping and international shipping may be available for an additional fee. Our online payment system accepts all major credit cards. Please email DCP at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org if you would like to pay by check or money order.

Choose Kit Type
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Name on Adoption Certificate

Friend Paul on Facebook (he has his very own page) and get the latest sighting updates. DCP researchers will keep you up to date on Paul's antics, and you can interact with other Paul fans and adoptive parents.

Membership Program

The Dolphin Communication Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that relies on support from the public to conduct our scientific research and offer education opportunities to people of all ages. Your generosity is the lifeblood of our organization, and we could not operate without the public funds we receive through memberships, donations, and our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program. Every scientific article we've published and every student mentorship opportunity we've provided has been made possible by financial support from people just like you. You can become a member of the Dolphin Communication Project by making a one-time donation or becoming a Sustaining Member via a monthly contribution. All members will receive a Welcome Pack which includes a welcome letter and an online subscription to our newsletter, The Dolphin Gazette. Sustaining members may also choose a free gift including a dolphin note pad, DCP water bottle (while supplies last) or a sample of dolphin trading cards.

Become a Sustaining Member

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One-Time Donation Memberships

Supporting, Contributing, and Patron members receive a special DVD (exact title varies). Contributing and Patron members also receive a photo album featuring images and information about all of our adopt-a-wild-dolphins.

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Please also consider adopting a dolphin through our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program.
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Lauren Larson
20 February 2019

Lauren Larson

Lauren Larson is currently an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Psychology, Fisheries and Wildlife, and Communication Studies. Although she grew up in Nebraska, Lauren did not let that stop her from wanting to work with dolphins and learn about scientific research. DCP’s behavioral research and education programs are what attracted Lauren.

DCP was Lauren’s first experience being a part of a research team in the summer of 2014, as an intern. During her internship, she worked on video logging to confirm identification of the dolphins in research footage filmed on Roatan, Honduras, as well as confirming identification and pectoral fin contact events of the Bimini Atlantic spotted dolphins. Lauren also helped work on a literature review for a coastal distribution sightings paper. Her favorite part of DCP’s research was learning about the dolphin’s social behaviors and interactions with one another. After having such a hands-on and educational internship, Lauren continues to work for DCP as a volunteer. She plans to graduate in the spring of 2015, and then continue to pursue a career in marine mammal science.

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Gillian Reily
20 February 2019

Gillian Reily

Gillian Reily grew up in Southeastern Michigan and spent most of her summers in Florida with her grandparents where she fell in love with dolphins at a young age. Growing up she knew that she wanted to work with dolphins and her passion led her to seek an internship with the Dolphin Communication Project in the fall of 2013. During her time with DCP, Gillian helped digitize and measure whistles from a group of dolphins located at Dolphin Encounters in The Bahamas. Check out the thesis page for Gillian's thesis abstract. Gillian received her BS in Zoology (concentration in Neurology and Animal Behavior) from Michigan State University in 2012 and an MS in Marine Biology from Nova Southeastern University in 2014

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Azura Consulting

Azura Consulting LLC is a new woman-owned small business working to empower people and organizations to meet their goals while also conserving natural resources and minimizing impacts to the environment. Azura also aims to foster environmental stewardship and an excitement for science within our communities.

Azura CEO Amy Whitt, M.E.M. founded the company in September 2014 to provide environmental consulting, educational outreach, and editing services. Amy has over 11 years of professional experience in marine mammal research and environmental management. Prior to founding Azura, Amy served as the Marine Science Program Manager and Scientific Diving Program Manager for VersarGMI. She has conducted marine studies across the globe for a variety of clients including federal and state agencies, the oil and gas industry, and the offshore renewable energy industry.

Amy’s passion for conservation and outreach and dedication to helping others find solutions to their problems motivated her to develop Azura and bring together a diverse team of expert scientists, writers, and informal educators to contribute this unique blend of services. Azura also fosters solid partnerships with other small businesses, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions. By harnessing the expertise of a network of specialists, Azura provides the best possible team for each specific project.

Azura and DCP have formed a strong partnership and will be collaborating on future marine mammal studies and outreach and education opportunities. DCP’s Director Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski and Amy have a long history of working together in the environmental consulting industry. Also an Associate Scientist with Azura, Kathleen will work with Amy and the rest of the Azura team to promote marine acoustics services focused on marine species research and the implementation of acoustic monitoring/mitigation plans to minimize impacts of anthropogenic sounds on the marine environment. As partners, Azura and DCP will also seek out opportunities to enhance and expand educational outreach programs to promote marine conservation in our communities.

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Our Methods

Focal animal and focal group follows provide the framework for data collection focusing on dolphin signal exchange and contact behavior. Simultaneous video and stereo audio recording of identified dolphins and real-time, all-occurrence documentation of specific behaviors and group activity provide a data record. A mobile video/acoustic system (MVA) is used to record dolphin behavior and sound. Definitions include:

->   Group - The "total available dolphins" observed within an imaginary ellipse, with a 200 m long axis & 100 m short axis for dimensions. At Mikura, the long axis placed parallel to the coastline.
->   Subgroup - Dolphins observed in apparent association, moving in the same general direction, although not all individuals necessarily heading in the same direction, and engaged in the same activity. Spatially, each individual in a single subgroup is within at least five dolphin-body widths of its nearest conspecific.
->   Short Encounter - Any underwater observations of dolphins between 30 s & 180 s. Underwater observations of dolphins that are greater than 180 s become true encounters by definition

 

The Mobile Video/Acoustic System – MVA
(a.k.a. "array")The MVA

The mobile video/acoustic system (MVA) was developed to permit real-time synchronous recording of the sounds and behaviors of individual, free-swimming dolphins. Manually operated under water, the system consists of two omni-directional hydrophones cabled through a custom underwater housing into a stereo video camera. Hydrophone spacing on the housing is scaled to the human inter-aural distance based upon the speed of sound in water (4.5 times faster than in air). Location of the vocalizing dolphin is based upon associating visual distribution of animals with directions to sound sources as determined by aural psycho-acoustics.

Dudzinski and Gregg both used an ECD - echolocation click detector - that was added to the original design in a small second housing containing a digital audio (or recently an M-Audio) recorder together with a pre-processor circuit that allowed detection of the highly directional part of a dolphin's echolocation 'clicks' and makes these audible and recordable. The MVA in action

Dudzinski affectionately calls the MVA her "array" – since it contains at least two hydrophones.

Significance & Application

Observations of dolphin behavior are enhanced through the use of video recordings; valuable information is preserved and the dynamics of inter-animal relations, associations, behavior, and sociality can be examined. These data can be analyzed for evidence of acoustic, visual, and tactile signal exchange and behavioral coordination within varying social contexts. More importantly, comparisons of specific behaviors between individuals and groups of dolphins The MVA in useare facilitated. Video recordings are especially useful for documentation, and subsequent analysis, of subtle within-group signaling of dolphins underwater, where they spend over 85% of their time. Inter-observer reliability is also possible from videotaped records, thus providing a set of observations able to withstand the rigors of statistical machinations. Video records enable an examination of visually and acoustically described behavior that provide insight on the importance of contextual cues for how dolphin signal-receivers respond to signalers. Conclusions may then be drawn concerning the interplay between vocalizations, social behavior, and contextual variables.

In summer 2001, DCP increased the capability of our click detector (ECD) by adding a second frequency range. We use two circuit boards - one set at 70 kHz and one set at 120 kHz. This allows greater range to better determine how dolphins use their click (i.e., pulsed) sounds. The ECD boards were designed by Paul Lepper and Daryl Newborough of New Leap Ltd.

The following is the Abstract from Dudzinski et al's presentation at the 30th Annual Meeting of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals held from 8-11 March 2002 in Aalborg, Denmark. For more information on the symposium program, go to www.eaam.org.

An examination of two frequency bands for echolocation click signals recorded from two species of wild dolphins with respect to behavior and potential function
Kathleen M. Dudzinski1, Paul Lepper2,3, Darryl Newborough3

1Dolphin Communication Project, 3600 S. Harbor Blvd., #429, Oxnard, CAThe ECD 93035 USA
2Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Marine Physical Laboratory, Bldg. 4, San
Diego, CA 92106 USA
3New Leap Ltd., United Kingdom

ABSTRACT
Dolphin echolocation signals from two frequency bands have been processed for
both wild bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted dolphins
(Stenella frontalis) recorded around Mikura Island, Japan and in the Bahamas,
respectively. These data are closely correlated with underwater video footage
showing animal behavior around the acoustic receivers. Echolocation signals
were detected for both species using a single wide-band hydrophone (-164 dB
re 1V/uPa) and then processed in-situ using an envelope detection technique
for energy content in two frequency bands centered on 70 kHz and 120 kHz.
Each band had an approximate 15 kHz bandwidth with good rejection of energy
between each band. This method allowed detailed analysis of variations in
inter-click period for particular behaviors and changes in the click energy
spectral distribution between the two frequency bands of interest. Variations
in click rate are seen in both bands and appear to be correlated with changes
in behavior. The shift in energy between frequencies is potentially related
to specific dolphin head movements (e.g., head scanning); however, other
behaviors were also concurrently documented with observed shifts in energy
between both bands. This suggests that dolphins are capable of voluntary
control over the energy content and repetition rate of high frequency click
signals leading to the potential for communication among group members as one
function for click signals.
 

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DCP's Protocol for Behavioral Data Collection (Observations & Recordings)

The following is a narrative related to DCP's protocol for protocol for our behavioral and acoustic data collection. We use this protocol consistently between our field sites to document dolphin interactions and signal exchange. We maintain as non-invasive a process as possible.

Our studies into dolphin communication focus on signal exchange and use of tactile behaviors between individuals. DCP also promotes a comparative aspect to our studies. Because we use the same protocol for data collection at each of our field sites, we can directly compare data collected on each of our study groups. Some of the various research objectives and hypotheses are annotated in the following text.

Objectives

To conduct focal animal and all-occurrence observations to determine how dolphins spend their time in their habitat, area at each field site.

To identify behavior and vocal exchanges between interacting individuals.

To identify dolphin group activity from underwater and surface observations.

To identify vocalizing individuals and examine variation in whistle production and use according to individual, age, sex and activity.

To document production and use of pulsed (i.e., click) sounds by individual dolphins.

To characterize other pulsed sounds (e.g., squawks, whines) and determine if they contain a high frequency signal similar to echolocation clicks.

To record signal exchange including contact behavior and sounds between individual dolphins.

To identify how these signals are related to dolphin identification, age, sex, group type and behavioral activity.

To identify signal senders and receivers during interactions.

To determine if correlations exist between sender/receiver roles and dolphin age, sex, associates, and activity.

To identify similarities and differences in signal exchange and interactions between individuals at our different study sites.

To identify any group type or composition differences.

To identify any differences in activity during encounters with dolphins.

To determine if observed variations in behavior, activity or signal exchange may be related to habitat differences (i.e., external factors).


Hypotheses (examples as related to objectives)

H01:  Bottlenose dolphins show no differential use among subgroups or groups in the shallow, near-shore waters near Mikura Island.

HA1:  Bottlenose dolphins use the shallow, near-shore area around Mikura Island for different behavioral activities depending on subgroup type and size.

HA2:  Bottlenose dolphins use the shallow, near-shore area around Mikura Island for foraging, social and play activities without regard to subgroup type and size.

H02:  Contact behavior between bottlenose dolphins does not differ in use and expression according to dolphin age, sex or associates.

HA1:  Contact behaviors differ in frequency related to the behavioral activity of each subgroup.

HA2:  Contact behaviors differ in use and frequency according to group type and the age and sex of identified dolphins.

HA3a:  The same contact behaviors are modified by dolphin postures within different behavioral activities, and thus will send varying messages (e.g., play versus aggression).

HO3:  Sounds produced by bottlenose dolphins are not related to dolphin identification, age, sex or to subgroup behavioral activity.

HA1:  Identified bottlenose dolphins possess individually distinct frequency-modulated pure tones (e.g., whistles).

HA2:  Frequency-modulated pure tones vary according to dolphin age and sex but not necessarily to individual or behavioral activity.

HA3:  Frequency-modulated pure tones vary according behavioral activity but not necessarily to dolphin identification, age or sex.

HA4:  Pulsed vocalizations (e.g., clicks, squawks) vary according to the behavioral activity of subgroups, but not necessarily to subgroup type.

H04:  All pulsed sounds possess a signal in the 120 kHz range and are used for investigation of the surrounding environment and for foraging only.

HA1:  Pulsed sounds are used to exchange communicative as well as investigative information. That is, pulsed sounds are used in non-foraging and non-exploratory behaviors.

HA2:  Only the click or pulsed sounds used during foraging, or exploratory behaviors possess a signal at about 120 kHz.

Related comparative questions focus on the similarities and differences in use and production of contact behavior and sounds as well as signal exchange between individuals between dolphins. Do individuals from both groups exhibit similar group types? Do they exhibit similar behavioral activities in their given habitats? Do individuals within both study populations use sounds differently? Do they interact with conspecifics similarly given similar group types or behavioral activities? Could the difference in habitat for the two locations - far from shore, white sand in the Bahamas versus near-shore, boulder-covered sea floor around Mikura - play a significant factor in any observed differences in behavioral activity or signal exchange?

Data Collection

Focal animal and focal group follows provide the framework for data collection focusing on dolphin signal exchange and contact behavior - communication. Two methods of collection will be followed for each swim encounter with dolphins: 1) simultaneous video and audio recording of identified dolphins; and 2) real-time, all-occurrence documentation of specific behaviors and group activity. Real-time, all-occurrence sampling will provide information on the overall behavioral activities of the dolphins. Information on the associations of vocal and tactile/visual signs of dolphins will be obtained primarily from video recordings, while corroborative evidence will be gathered in the form of anecdotal observations.

Focal individuals will be chosen opportunistically depending on individuals observed during swim encounters. The decision of which dolphin to watch is by chance with attention to an even representation of all age and both sexes. A focal session will start as soon as the observer is in position underwater and the group composition is assessed. Video recording will continue until the animal(s) leaves the field of view. Thus, duration of focal follows is dictated by dolphin behavior: video observations on individuals will continue for as long as possible while in the field.

A mobile video/acoustic system (MVA) will be used to record dolphin behavior and sounds (Dudzinski et al., 1995). The system is swimmer-propelled and facilitates localization of dolphin sound sources by associating video data of animal distributions with audio data from two hydrophones spaced relative to the human inter-aural distance as scaled to speed of sound in water. A small second housing containing a Sony TCD D8 digital recorder together with a pre-processor circuit which detects the highly directional part of a dolphin's echolocation 'clicks' and makes these audible and recordable will also be used.

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Nicole Danaher-Garcia

Nicole graduated from Duke University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. Following a lifelong love of animals, she accepted her first animal husbandry internship at Mystic Aquarium where she learned about sea lion training and animal behavior. During this internship she stumbled upon the book Dolphin Mysteries and reignited a desire to pursue scientific research. After returning from a second animal husbandry internship at the Georgia Aquarium, Nicole became a volunteer with DCP in June of 2012. She completed an internship in Bimini, The Bahamas with DCP in the summer of 2013. She loved it so much that she even brought home two souvenirs: a pair of stray Bahamian kittens!

Since this first field experience with DCP she traveled to RIMS with Dr. Dudzinski in 2013 and returned to Bimini to assist Kel Melillo-Sweeting with various college field courses in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 field seasons. Now she is a Master's candidate at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and will be collaborating with DCP for her thesis--the dolphins of Bimini will be the focus of her research project.

 

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Pam Lovejoy
20 February 2019

Pam Lovejoy

Pam Lovejoy is currently PhD candidate, Binghamton University. Pam was a volunteer with DCP, adn completed an internship between June 2012 and August 2012 at our field site in Bimini.

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Brittany McIntosh
20 February 2019

Brittany McIntosh

 

 Brittany McIntosh Info coming soon

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Bimini Adventures

Bimini Adventures, headed by Al Sweeting Jr, have formally supported DCP's research off Bimini, The Bahamas since 2006. Operating out of Sea Crest Hotel & Marina, Bimini Adventures grant space for DCP researchers on their trips in search of wild dolphins. Al, with more than 20 years experience guiding tourists on and under the waters of Bimini, and his crew are a pleasure to work with. We are appreciative of their generosity as well as that of their guests.

Learn more about this local eco-tour company at www.biminiadventures.com.

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Bimini Undersea

DCP first met Bimini Undersea (then Bill & Nowdla Keefe's Bimini Undersea) in 1997 during the filming of DOLPHINS. Bill & Nowdla were so welcoming and encouraging of DCP's research off Bimini. DCP regularly joined their dolphin trips from 2001 - 2012 and continues to be invited aboard Adventurer today.

For more information on Bimini Undersea, please visit www.biminiundersea.com.

 

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Contact Us

Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project, P.O. Box 7485, Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985, USA.

Email us (but please don't send file attachments or job opening queries):

info {at} dcpmail {dot} org

Are you a researcher or student interested in collaborating with DCP?

Great! Send us an email and let us know about your ideas.

Writing to ask us about Job Opportunities? Hold your horses! Read this first:

The Dolphin Communication Project does not have any vacancies or job opportunities available at present. We often receive queries from people interested in working with us, and many are surprised to learn that DCP is run almost exclusively by volunteers. Our core team consists of our Director, Kathleen Dudzinski, Research Associate and Bimini Research Manager, Kelly Melillo-Sweeting, and Senior Research Associate (and web guru) Justin Gregg. Working together with a handful of outside associates/volunteers, the DCP team is responsible for creating all of the educational and website content, collecting and analyzing all of the data from our various research sites, overseeing interns, volunteers and students, traveling to conferences to present our research findings, and writing and publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals, books, and other science publications. All of these tasks are taken care of in the core team's "free time," and only small stipends or reimbursements are provided to DCP research associates, if funding is available. DCP is, and has always been, a labor of love; a result of our researchers' desire to learn more about dolphin behavior and share our results with the general public. The limited funding that we do receive from our fundraising efforts or adoption kit sales is usually used to purchase more modern research equipment or travel to our field sites or conferences, and not destined for researchers' salaries. Thus, it is unlikely that DCP will have job opportunities available in the near future. We do welcome queries from those interested in volunteering or interning with DCP, and would most certainly welcome donations from those wishing to help us with our research and education efforts.

Writing to ask us a dolphin science question? Hold your horses! Read this first:

Did you check out our Dolphin FAQs? The answer might be in there. Did you listen to all the episodes of The Dolphin Pod? The answer could be there. Did you read this article on how to do online research into dolphin science? Whew! You've been busy! If you still can't find an answer to your dolphin science question, feel free to email us.

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Zoo Duisburg

Dudzinski began DCP's studies of the dolphins at Zoo Duisburg in late 2012. She was invited to observe the dolphins and spent time documenting their behavior and vocalizations. There are nine dolphins calling the dolphinarium at Zoo Duisburg home. When Dudzinski visited in 2012 and 2013, 1 adult male, 3 adult females, 2 subadult females, and 2 male and 1 female calves called the dolphinarium home.

The Zoo opened in 1935 and was well received with more than 300,000 visitors in it's first year. Though severely bombed during WWII, the zoo survived and rebuilt. Seals and penguins were brought to the zoo in 1958. The dolphinarium was opened in 1965, with four bottlenose dolphins. The zoo welcomed its first beluga a year later.

The zoo has been home to a variety of odontocetes (toothed whales) over the years including Commerson's dolphins and the Amazon river dolphin. Baby, a ~40 year old Amazon river dolphin still calls the zoo home!

Dudzinski spent several hours observing this group of dolphins from both the in-water, underwater view and via the underwater viewing ports/windows. The younger dolphins were rambunctious and curious!

Check out DCP's publications page for the article published in December 2013 about our study comparing pectoral fin contact between individual dolphins at Zoo Duisburg with our studies of the dolphins around Bimini, The Bahamas, at Mikura Island, Japan and in Roatan, Honduras.

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Tadamichi Morisaka, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Tadamichi Morisaka, Ph.D.

Lecturer, Tokai University Institute of Innovative Science and Technology
Specialties: Bioacoustics, Ethology, Ecology, Cognition
Interests: Evolution of odontocetes’ acoustic communication

Odontocetes, or toothed whales, use various sounds to search their environments and to communicate with each other. How, when and why do they evolve such a variable sounds? This is my research interest. Predatory-Prey interactions are seems to restrict their sound variations and activities. Additionally, I am involving conservation of wild dolphins using several techniques. Also I am willing to note rare behaviors from wild dolphins which I see during my field activities to a scientific journal in order other researchers to site such behaviors for other purpose.

Room 8427, Building No. 8
Institute of Oceanic Research and Development, Tokai University
3-20-1, Orido, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka-shi,
Shizuoka 424-8610, Japan
Tel: +81-54-334-0411 (ext. 3431)
HP: http://marinemammal.jimdo.com/

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Mai Sakai, Ph.D.
20 February 2019

Mai Sakai, Ph.D.

Tokai University Institute of Innovative Science and Technology, Research Fellow of the JSPS
Specialties: Ethology, Cognition
Interests: Social touch and synchrony, underwater behavior, social cognition in dolphins

My research focus is on cetacean behavior and sociality. Cetaceans, especially odontocetes, have attracted research interest due to their large brains, highly sophisticated cognitive abilities, and diverse social structures. However, odontocetes live in a relatively inhospitable environment compared to terrestrial species, making them harder to study than most species. Consequently, there are still many things we do not know about odontocete social behavior. I have studied the social behavior of cetaceans via ethological methods for approximately 14 years. I have conducted behavioral observation of wild dolphins, bio-logging methods and behavioral observation of captive dolphins. My interests are social touch, synchronous swimming in dolphins. I will introduce new techniques to my future research for understanding brain function, endocrine mechanisms, and hydrodynamic effects of odontocete social behavior.