Dolphins only tend to move in small groups when they feel safe in an area. Large group aggregations provide safety to all individuals and smaller dolphins, although predators themselves, are nonetheless potential prey for larger toothed whales. Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) travel in larger groups through the temperate waters of the Atlantic and Mediterranean but will separate into smaller subgroups if the opportunity presents itself. These subgroups usually consist of 20-30 animals but may also be smaller if even that number is too high for the plans of the day.
When hunting for Halfbeaks (Belone belone), planktivorous fish that occur in small groups, it makes little sense for the whole pod to pursue the same group of fish together. These tiny hunting parties often consist of as little as two or three dolphins. We have even had sightings of one common dolphin going at it alone. Today our spotter saw a few leaps further out at sea and managed to guide us to one common dolphin. Maybe the animal was hunting alone or the pod members were so relaxed they were barely noticeable at the choppy surface. Both are a possibility but we enjoyed every minute of it nonetheless!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
09:30 Short-beaked common dolphins