Probed with sound!

Peculiar inquisitive behavior  dolphin curious echolocation

Today was a good dolphin day. An early morning boat trip brought us some mediocre weather conditions, but some fantastic dolphin video. After surviving what I term “Lumbar Waves” (choppy water conditions that bounce you up and down in an apparent attempt to cause permanent spinal damage to the lower lumbar region), we came across an inquisitive group of subadults down by Subarune. There is a small stretch of sand flats just offshore – a contrast to the usual boulder strewn bottom found around the rest of the island. Some of the members of this group dove down to the seabed and rubbed and rolled in the sand – a great way to scratch an itch if you are a dolphin and you don’t have a friend handy to give you a good scratch with their pectoral fin. But my favorite part of today’s trip was a small group of subadults who took a serious and prolonged interest in me and the MVA. They ignored all of the other passengers and swarmed around me like mosquitoes. They spent long sessions echolocating on me, the camera, and my fins. This is the first time that these Mikura dolphins have shown much interest in my fins I have to say! They hovered very close to me during this inspection episode – so close that I could have easily reached out and touched any of them before they had a chance to swim away. They were nearly rubbing up against me. Reaching out to touch a wild dolphin however is usually a terrible idea – they will often times understand this as an aggressive behavior. We make it our policy here not to touch – just to observe. I spend a lot of my time trying to behave in such a way that the dolphins consider me a non-threatening entity, and I don’t want to jeopardize that no matter how tempting or easy it may be to interact tactilely with these guys. At one point, both of the dolphins sank down vertically underneath me and hung in the water looking up and me and echolocating like crazy! They kept this up for at least 20 seconds without a stopping. I received a free ultrasonic massage! The above picture is taken from one of these long echolocation sessions. I’ve never seen this much intense echolocation directed at me or anything else before. What was it about me that was so acoustically interesting today? Who knows. Maybe it was something I ate.