Dolphins & Science
Before on our blog, we have shared quite a few fun and interesting facts about dolphins, and these recent scientific breakthroughs involving dolphins aren’t any different! Dolphins are incredibly smart animals that have their own language and plan out hunting trips. Researchers keep making new discoveries about these beautiful creatures every day, but we think you’ll like these the best.
Language Barrier (Reef)
Dolphins use clicks and chirps to communicate within their pods – the name for dolphin communities – and for a long time scientists could only guess at what they were saying; that, however, is changing. Recent studies by scientist Jill Richardson at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science in conjunction with Dolphins Plus Sanctuary in Key Largo, Florida, have been able to start identifying different specific characteristics of the dolphin language. One of the biggest breakthroughs has been that dolphins give their young unique names, similar to how people do. Continued research hopes to unlock more about these chatty animals.
Dental Check Up
Dolphins don’t use their teeth to chew. In fact, they lack the jaw muscles needed to chew. Instead, their sharp teeth are used to grab prey that is then swallowed whole. Their teeth serve an important purpose – or should we say “porpoise”? – to them, but also to scientists looking to study the ocean habitat. Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand have been able to see how levels of pollution – specifically waste metals from mining – have been increasing or decreasing in the ocean by studying dolphin teeth. The trace metals that end up in the water are absorbed into fish which are then consumed by the dolphins. Once in the dolphin, the metals are absorbed into the bones and teeth of the dolphins. The teeth collect these metals throughout their whole lives and create a record of sorts researchers can use to track industrial runoff and other contaminants.
We’ve talked before about how dolphins breathe and how long it takes until they have to come up for air again, but did you know that it plays a large role in how they hunt for their prey? With some species diving up to 1300 feet to hunt, but with only 15 minutes of air in their lungs, dolphins have to been incredibly efficient. The Journal of Experimental Biology recently published an article discussing how dolphins don’t forget successful hunting grounds and will plan out where to go and how deep they will have to dive – and therefore how much air they’ll need – before hunting. Dolphins hunt in groups to help make their hunting trips even more efficient. During a cruise with Southern Star, you just might see a group of dolphins hunting!