Dolphin fight! Dolphin fight!

A very long but productive day.

 social dolphins female subadults IMAGE: Ketsushakure and Iganii; dolphin bouncers.

We were lucky enough to get out on the water with Ichiro-sensei again today. This trip was three and a half hours! A mammoth! We ran across a huge group of females with calves, including #064 (Yakedo-chan) who appeared to have a very young calf at her side. So teeny-weenie-tiny-ultra-small that it must not be more than a few days old. #404 (Ketsushakure) and #353 (Iganii) were really interested in the camera today. We followed a large group for some time, and every entry I made into the water sparked a flurry of activity from these two. As soon as they saw me, they swam straight up to me and started circle swimming. After I looked sufficiently sick, they then took off at the speed of light and I was all alone. This happened 3 or 4 times. It could be that they were the ‘bouncers’ for the group, and every time an intruder came around, it was their job to circle swim them into submission. It worked.

The highlight of the day was our very last entry. We stumbled across a good old fashioned dolphin fracas! In a group of around 12 sub-adults (maybe males and females), there was one poor dolphin who somehow incurred the wrath of the entire group. Perhaps he stole someone's mackerel, or was caught courting someone's girl. Whatever the cause, the group was putting a hurtin’ on him. Chasing, biting, slapping with flukes, etc. There were also really loud jaw claps (whereby a dolphin bangs his teeth together to produce an enormously loud clap), as well as constant whistling. I could also hear aggressive bursts pulses – this is where dolphins produce really fast clicks at a high volume, apparently ‘shooting’ them at each other – it probably hurts a dolphin’s ears to get hit with a burst pulse, so all and all not a pleasant little episode. And for some reason, while all of this madness was taking place, some of the passengers decided that they would try to swim into the middle of it to get a closer look! Madness! I am not sure if they realized that we were watching aggressive behavior, but I was sure as heck not going to swim through the middle of all that. Dolphins are not exactly small innocent little animals – an adult bottlenose is usually around 10 or 12 feet long and weighs around 600 pounds – not exactly an animal worth messing with when they are ornery. An accidental fluke in the face or bite from one of these guys and you are in serious trouble. But nobody got hurt (except the one dolphin at the center of all of this), and the group went merrily on their way, pestering their victim as they went. I’m sure he’ll be fine. And maybe he’ll have some new scars so he will be easier to identify in the future! If dolphins were nice to each other all the time, we wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.