Hello December! Winter almost doesn’t feel like winter here in Madeira and we had the sighting this morning to prove it!
An enormous pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), that easily consisted of 120 animals, was travelling with the Northwestern swell and our Ribeira Brava accompanied the animals for a bit of the way. Our team hadn’t seen these dolphins for some time but the species is not a rare visitor in the archipelago’s waters. Being the notorious warm-water lovers that they are, these little curious dolphins are by far the most frequently sighted species at sea during the summer months, prompting us to nickname them our summer dolphins. The fact that they are here now indicates that the water cannot be colder than 20 degrees celsius, a sort of temperature threshold for these tropical/subtropical creatures.
Atlantic spotted dolphins have several characteristics which make them incredible to observe for biologists like myself. They are curious, making them super easy to observe at sea. They sport a characteristic spot pattern that develops as they mature, facilitating the identification of different age groups and understanding their social dynamics. Above all, they are extremely chatty which makes them magnificent subjects for all scientists engaged in understanding dolphin acoustics. These and many other characteristics have made them one of my favourite cetaceans so I was delighted at seeing them after my time off and am secretly hoping, that the upcoming storm will not cool the ocean down too much so we can continue seeing our summer dolphins this winter.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins