The wind prevented us from going out to sea for some days and no species could have welcomed us back on the water in a more enjoyable way than the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). On todays afternoon tour they dashed, dove and leapt near our zodiac, living up to their acrobatic reputation. It was a small, dispersed group and consisted mainly of juvenile animals, that generally are the first to approach our boats and are easily recognisable due to the fact that they still lack their own distinct spot pattern. Spots only begin merging as little dispersed freckles along the jawline and stomach once the animal reaches maturity and then develops into the a characteristic pattern that can even be used for the identification of individual dolphins!
The notorious curiosity of spotted dolphins has made them incredibly smart since they make sure to explore the areas they dwell in as thoroughly as possible, an attribute which they undoubtedly share with human beings and great apes. Despite their intelligence and their parallels to human beings, we remain their greatest adversaries and our actions their greatest threat. Hunts on spotted dolphins are still being reported around the Caribbean and they often fall victim to fishing nets or injure themselves on fishing lines. Like most marine predators, spotted dolphins are also threatened through prey depletion particularly of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus), which is probably one of the most important schooling fish for prey in the Atlantic Ocean.
Such facts remind us that none of our encounters are to be taken for granted. Top predators like dolphins continue to suffer the consequences of our actions and we can only be grateful for their resilience that has, so far, enabled us to still enjoy sightings with them at sea.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins