Protected: Life Beneath the Break
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
Dolphins are without a doubt, the most sought after sight to see aboard an Amelia River Cruise experience. Their behavior patterns and level of intelligence have been a pinnacle of marine studies for the majority of the science’s existence. It’s interesting how children and adolescents always add Marine Biologist to their lists of, “what I want to be when I grow up.” How does this occupation tie in with other childhood dreams like being a fireman, policeman, professional athlete, lawyer, or doctor? Of course, they are adorable! But they are also one of very few creatures in the marine world who will have close encounters with humans of a friendly nature. Their elegance and upbeat behavior are simply captivating characteristics that warrant interest from all sorts of people, young and mature alike. By looking at their behavior patterns, we can maybe understand a little more about what draws our affections to these guys!
In previous studies, dolphins were believed to stick to a certain “pod” composition for their social situation. However, through their behavioral study efforts, Sea World and marine life enthusiasts alike have now determined otherwise. A pod is basically another term for a “school” as in schools of fish. Now, dolphin pods are somewhat inconsistent in their numbers for a couple of reasons. Normally, a pod will consist of anywhere from just 2-15 members. Whenever they get in larger habitats – or open water – this number can increase to as much as three times the dolphins based on strategic feeding and taking advantage of open water frolicking. They are quite playful with one another. While many of these friendships formed are frequently entertained, they are rarely permanent. This trait seems to be consistent throughout the mammals I’ve studied lately. Some types of companionship last longer with Bottlenose Dolphins. For example, a Mother-calf relationship has far more longevity than that of a male-female bond. A calf will spend up to 6 years with its mother before breaking away to a different pod composition. Moreover, offspring will often return with their calf back to the mother, forming a multi-generational group! Adult males seem to have the longest lasting relationships running up to 20-year pairing bonds.
When you spot dolphins on one of Amelia River Cruises tours, you may notice that they are riding on the bow waves or the wake that the stern produces. You may think they are trying to get a closer look at you! In fact, this is an instinctual behavior. The waves and wake simulate the normal habitat conditions they experience in the wild. These include: the normal manifestation of ocean swells, swimming in the wake of a whale, or following in their mother’s hydrodynamic wake (also known as the slip stream).
For me, the dolphin’s most impressive behavior is their compassion for and protection of the group. The larger adult males will often take positions in the outside of the group to thwart off possible predators and to keep the pod in a safe formation. There are even those members who will perform recon missions and report back to the group of any unusual environment changes that could threaten the pod. The most compassionate act witnessed has been the physical support dolphins will give one another to help one another heal, or even breathe by helping each other to surface if injured.
There are vast amounts of behaviors under the deep blue that we could learn from ourselves. The Bottlenose Dolphin is only one of many of the creatures in marine life we could both learn and take inspiration from. So, next time you are with us on a cruise and see our friends come sail with us for a spell, you will know just a little more about why they are there and why we hold them in such high regard! Be sure to check out upcoming special event cruises or book your own private experience!
Until next time, stay salty friends!