Everything about dolphins is social and we bore witness to this during all todays tours. Dolphins are known to build long-lasting relationships with their fellow peers, and these relationships are usually manifested as friendships amongst most oceanic dolphin species. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) go about their selection in a very similar way to humans but are known to be more finicky when it comes to gender. Males remain with fellow males, whilst females choose other females as their companions.
The reason behind this is largely linked to their progeny and the behaviour of males in regard to this matter has put the image of the gentle bottlenose dolphin to rest. While males heighten their reproductive success by ganging up and surrounding females, female dolphins find safety for themselves and their calves in the company of other, often more experienced, females. Male bottlenose dolphins are even known to kill calves that aren’t their own, since females will not mate until the weaning period of at least 3 years is complete.
This dark side behind the friendships between dolphins may sound shocking, but life isn’t easy in the ocean, even for top predators. Dolphin companions also save their friends from dangerous situations, teach them hunting strategies and look after them when they are resting or sleeping. So beyond being animals that welcome socialising, they actually deeply depend on it.
Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) apparently do things similarly to Bottlenose dolphins in regards to friendships, although they too may fall victim to the Bottlenose dolphins violent ways. Behavioural observations on both species are often conducted in the Bahamas and many of the interactions between the two habitat sharing delphinids aren’t always peaceful. Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), on the other hand, often form enormous pods with other species to facilitate a safe journey through the perilous open ocean.
The way some dolphins treat each other may not always suit the picture we like to have of them, that of a peaceful and friendly creature, but we mustn’t let such facts impair our better judgement. They are top predators that are trying to survive on a planet that is changing dangerously quickly so, if we aren’t going to take care of them, at least they have each other.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins
14:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Unidentified baleen whale
09:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Unidentified baleen whale