Some animals are easier to recognise than others and our team has been left intrigued by one specific Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) that seems to be visiting the waters of the island relatively frequently. We tend to see the animal during transition seasons and it usually occurs in a group of dolphins containing calves, allowing us the assumption that it may be a female. The features on this dolphin are almost unmistakeable; the heavily marked fin with a white tip, its defined melon, its large, scratched body and the the scars along its beak which prompted me to nickname the individual Pacino, after the main actor of the movie Scarface.
Another distinctive feature we observed during sightings with this dolphin was more related to a behaviour it continuously displays; as it surfaces the dolphin leaves a clearly visible bubble trail at the surface. While we generally assume that Pacino must be the water when we see such a bubble trail at the surface, but this behaviour has obviously been observed extremely frequently with dolphins and can be associated with several different social behaviours.
Bubble trails may often be produced as the animal whistles underwater which may mean that Pacino must give off a distinct whistle every time a boat is close by. After checking underwater videos during an encounter with the animal, however, we found the group to be fairly silent meaning vocalisations may not be the origin of this trail in the case of Pacino. Bubble trails have also been associated to stress behaviour and, judging by the fairly evasive nature of this individual during most encounters, this may be an explanation although we hope that our presence doesn’t contribute to this.
Bubble trails may also aid in synchronising movement within a pod of dolphins, for instance when the animals engage in a sudden change in direction. We saw Pacino’s “gang” twice today enduring both trips the group reacted fairly evasive towards our boats, frequently changing direction and avoiding an interaction. Pacino was however the only dolphin giving off this trail, which may either make him/her a leading animal in the group or indeed make this behaviour one that is clearly typical of this individual.
Whatever the reason for Pacino’s bubble trail may be, it does help us track the animal within the group enabling us to make many photos and keep gathering as much information as we can! We will keep all our guests posted as we attempt to unravel the bubble trail mystery!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins