Body contact is an extremely important part of a dolphins social life and this becomes obvious during almost all sightings. As well as it representing affection amongst the animals, it is also used to communicate things or emphasise thing communicated, very much like in human beings. Body contact its definitely visible amongst pods of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), a species that is renowned for curiously approaching boats during a sighting which makes such social behaviour very easy to observe. Today we observed a variety of body contact in the pods of spotted dolphins we encountered, especially amongst the younger animals. Small calves were leaping excitedly alongside their mothers before sheltering themselves under their mothers flipper.
Animals leaping simultaneously or swimming belly to belly (a behaviour that could be interpreted as mating) were also observed throughout the encounters.
Our team was also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris), a member of the mysterious beaked whale family, a group of cetaceans that spend a significant amount of time in the deeper layers of the water column. Nonetheless, a little social body contact can also be observed during encounters. Today, for instance, we encountered a female and a calf at the surface swimming simultaneously and very close together. On a later tour, the male emerged from the deep exposing his deep dorsal scars which are probably reminiscent of aggressive encounters with other males.
Later in the day a Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) suddenly showed up in the Southwestern waters in the company of small calf. We had a brilliant sighting involving this large animal, which soon darted after some prey alongside some spotted dolphins. Such cooperative feeding situations aren’t a rarity in our oceans and involve a lot of commotion, so the calf stayed on the sidelines before joining its mother once again, tucked under her flipper. This last demonstration of affection between cetaceans set a perfect mood to end this magnificent day!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins
14:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales
17:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales, Bryde’s whales