Surfer goes to head-to-head with pod of dolphins as he takes on gigantic Australian waves… and loses

  • Trent Sherborne was catching waves at his local beach in Kalbarri, Western Australia
  • Photographer Matt Hutton was lining up his last shot on the shore when a dolphin suddenly leaped from the ocean
  • What he captured is an incredibly rare picture of man and mammal sharing the same wave.

When surfer Trent Sherbourne zipped up his wetsuit, grabbed his board and headed down to the secluded beach he was probably hoping to have the waves to himself.

So, imagine his surprise when he found himself sharing the surf with a pod of dolphins who jumped out of the water right in front of him.

But even more incredible is that the moment was captured back on land by a self-taught photographer who was lining up his last shot of the day while experimenting with a new lens.

This stunning picture was capture by Matt Hutton who was just lining up the last shot of the day

Dolphins are known to share waves with humans but it is extremely rare for them to breach the surface and even rarer for the moment to be captured on film

Matt Hutton, 31, had been taking pictures of Trent when the local surfer was completely upstaged by dolphin racing him down the wave, before losing out to the speedy sea-mammal.

Amateur snapper Matt was travelling from Perth to his home in Wickham, Western Australia, in order to add pictures to his portfolio when he decided to stop in the small town of Kalbarri.

After asking locals for information he was told of a few good spots to go and take pictures of surfers but was advised that dolphin sightings were rare.

Losing out: Trent’s surfing was completely eclipsed by the stunts of the camera-shy dolphins who shared the surf with him that day

What he captured is the incredibly rare moment a dolphin breached the surface while sharing a wave with a surfer. While the intelligent animals are known to swim with humans, surfing with them is rare and even then, they stay underwater most of the time.

Matt added: ‘It really is a very rare shot and I was so lucky to have been at the right place and right time and in regards to the dolphin and the surfer, Trent said he knew it was him in the photo as it’s not every day you get to eyeball a Dolphin, so it was pretty close!’

‘I have had so many people write kind emails, messages, comments etc and it has been a very humbling experience, it is simply the highlight of my small photography career.

‘A few people think its photoshopped but I can assure you they’re not!’

However, one surfer who fell foul of the usually friendly sea creatures was Troy Robinson, 43, whose arm was broken after clashing with a dolphin in July.

Robinson found himself surrounded by ten of the animals while paddling out to sea, and it quickly became apparent that there was not enough space for all of them on the same wave.

As he ducked and dived through the tangle he was suddenly hit, torpedo-like, by one of the animals which knocked him clean off his board and left him in immense pain.

The impact was so hard he had to have a plate inserted into his left forearm and it also punched a hole into his surfboard.

However, he later joked that it would be a good story to tell his grandchildren, adding that it was ‘better than it being a shark.’



Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Bottle Nose Dolphin Adopts Whale Calf of Another Species


From a small inflatable boat in the Rangiroa atoll in French Polynesia, Pamela Carzon got her first glimpse of the “strange” trio of marine mammals she’d been told about: a bottlenose dolphin mother (Tursiops truncatus), her seven-month-old calf, and another young cetacean that was slightly smaller and looked to be not a bottlenose dolphin at all, but a melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra). 

It was April 2015, and Carzon and a colleague at the Marine Mammal Study Group of French Polynesia, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to whale and dolphin conservation, were out for the NGO’s annual photo-ID survey, very much hoping to find animals that a former collaborator had seen while diving in the region the previous November. “[T]he sea was very calm, and there were many dolphins around,” Carzon, also a PhD student at the Centre for Island Research and Environmental Observatory (CRIOBE) in French Polynesia and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, recalls in an email to The Scientist. “It took us maybe two minutes to spot them: the dark calf was easy to spot among the bottlenose dolphins.”

DOLPHIN ADOPTION: A female bottlenose dolphin in the South Pacific has been sighted with both her own calf and another young cetacean identified as a melon-headed whale.

The mother, dubbed ID#TP25 by the researchers, was known to tolerate divers and boats, and that April day she approached the inflatable with both calves. Carzon grabbed her underwater camera and slipped into the water. “I was able to get good underwater footage and to sex both calves,” she says. ID#TP25’s natural calf was a female; the second calf was male. “I also noticed that both were ‘gently’ pushing each other [in order] to remain under the adult female’s abdomen” in so-called infant position. Continued observation over the following months revealed that the dolphin mom was nursing the foreign calf, whose species ID remains to be confirmed with genetic testing, and otherwise treated him as one of her own.

Carzon had been studying the bottle-nose dolphin community inhabiting the northern part of Rangiroa atoll for a decade and knew that the cetaceans had a history of bringing young animals of other species into their group. In 1996, researchers observed a newborn spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostrisswimming in the slipstream of an adult male bottlenose—a behavior known as echelon swimming and a common interaction between mothers and calves. Scientists also regularly spotted a juvenile spinner dolphin over the next two years, often with a particular adult female bottlenose, Carzon says, although it’s not clear whether it was the same individual they saw as a new born. Then, in November 1998, a new born melon-headed whale spent a few weeks in the area and was filmed swimming in echelon position with the same female bottlenose that had associated with the young spinner dolphin.

More recently, another adult female bottlenose in the same community has twice been seen with young of a different species. In January 2011, she was spotted with a neonate spinner dolphin for a few days, and in February 2018, she was photographed with a new born Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei), which swam alongside her in echelon position. With such behaviours apparently relatively common within this social group, ID#TP25 may have picked up a thing or two from her conspecific companions, speculates Carzon. “The evidence that bottlenose dolphins are capable of imitation is very strong,” she says. “[S]ocially transmitted ideas or practices from cultural models may have influenced [ID#TP25’s] behaviour.

The adoption was stable, lasting more than two years.

As is the case with most animal adoptions in the wild, how the mother bottlenose came to acquire the melon-headed whale calf is unknown. The calf’s natural mother may have died, or the bottlenose dolphin group may have “kidnapped” it, a behavior that was once observed in a dolphin group in the Bay of Gibraltar, Carzon notes. Whatever scenario landed the outside calf in the care of dolphin ID#TP25, the adoption was stable, lasting more than two years. ID#TP25’s naturalcalf disappeared by early 2016, suggesting it died or weaned early, possibly joining another social group.

There is only one other published case of intraspecies adoption by animals in the wild: for about 14 months in the early 2000s, researchers documented the integration of an infant marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) into a group of capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) in woodland savanna of central Brazil. A female monkey that the researchers had thought was pregnant but who perhaps lost her own baby cared for the infant marmoset, carrying it on her back and appearing to nurse it. “It was amazing because when she appeared, she was tiny tiny tiny,” says Patrícia Izar, a primate ethologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil who observed the adoption. “She was really a new born, and she survived.” Izar says she was particularly astonished because she knew that some groups of capuchin monkeys eat young marmosets. Care for the young animal was eventually assumed by another female capuchin, and all group members appeared to tolerate the marmoset’s presence.

As for why intraspecies adoptions do—rarely—occur, wildlife conservation professor Robert Young of the University of Salford in the UK suggests that animals may not recognize that they’re caring for young of another species. In the case of the dolphins, the presumed melon-headed whale is similar in size to the adoptive mother’s own bottlenose dolphin calf, and the dolphins have not evolved a strong ability to differentiate their own young from those of another species. “There’s good reason to think it’s just an identification problem,” says Young, who says he has observed a handful of intraspecies adoptions among black-fronted titi monkeys (Callicebus nigrifrons) in Brazil.

The high levels of oxytocin coursing through mammalian mothers’ bodies and the abundance of resources are also likely to be relevant factors. Indeed, in the case of the capuchin group that took in a marmoset baby, Izar and her colleagues had been providing coconuts to study the animals’ use of stones to crack the fruit open, meaning that the monkeys had plenty of food to eat, and so looking after additional young might have been less costly. Interspecies adoptions are also much more common among domestic and captive animals, for whom food is often plentiful, than they are in the wild, Young notes. “If you’ve got a lactating female dog, you can just about get it to rear any other mammal.”

Documented cases of interspecies adoption among the Rangiroa dolphins and Brazilian monkeys “shows that it’s not impossible,” says Izar. “I think that in time we will have other cases in the wild.”



creds to: https://www.the-scientist.com/

How to avoid behaviour deterioration.

Sometimes we trainers get caught up in everyday distractions, other tasks and do not fully see what is going on, especially if you are a supervisor or have many other responsibilities. We may not realize that behaviour quality is diminishing. When this happens always rely upon your Operant Conditioning knowledge, many trainers underestimate its power to keep their animal responding with fluency ensuring the behaviour is under stimulus control.

Dolphins are usually sedentary animals; they also pick up unwanted behaviour habits along the way and if the trainer does not remind them and review it, there is a possibility of behaviours deteriorating little by little.

During sessions, programs or the daily routine it is easy to ignore little signs that show that we are compromising the quality of our animal’s behaviour.

A distracted trainer runs the risk of their animal eliciting unwanted behaviour, such as superstitious behaviours, latency responses and other unwanted behaviour.

The most beautiful and natural characteristics of dolphins are their intelligence, synchronicity, acrobatic and their fast instinct, which have become symbols of mysticism and elegance for us humans.

Trainers should take advantage of this and keep behaviours shaped and under criteria to give the animal a clear indication that the behaviour is right. Shaping their behaviour whilst using positive reinforcement is the best way to achieve this.

If your animal has performed a good session, do not take it for granted, take the opportunity to closely interact with your animal and build up trust by giving your animal the reward, love and affection they deserve. Keeping behaviours under control will help to avoid accidents.

You may find some who love to manipulate information and advertise our animals are in an unfair environment and that our animals are not feed if they don’t perform…make sure you do not fuel their argument, ensure your animals are fed during training sessions and during show or interaction programs. When your animals are performing at their best, take the opportunity to give them most of the diet designated for that session as a big reward, remember positive reinforcement!

Food management is simply ensuring proper dietary allocation throughout the day, just like us humans, having breakfast, lunch and supper at certain times throughout the day.

With our practice of positive reinforcement (ignoring unwanted behaviour) which covers all area of animals under human care, we make sure our animals are content and have a stress-free environment.

Case study tip

One way you can avoid and spot behaviour deterioration is to ask someone to record your session, so you can objectively look at the animal’s behaviour in playback; you can spot your mistakes also and improve your technique. As a supervisor, you could record a trainer’s session without their knowledge, so they do not have the opportunity to alter what they usually do. This should be constructive not negative, remember positive reinforcement works for humans too!

Trainers often don’t realise until it is pointed out by another trainer. A good trainer always knows when the animal is content and responding excellent, by the animal eliciting extra excitement and cooperation during their interaction.

Dolphins can learn from peers how to use shells as tools

The marine mammal learns how to hunt from mom, but not always, a study suggests

For some bottlenose dolphins, finding a meal may be about who you know.

Dolphins often learn how to hunt from their mothers. But when it comes to at least one foraging trick, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia’s Shark Bay pick up the behavior from their peers, researchers argue in a report published online June 25 in Current Biology.

While previous studies have suggested that dolphins learn from peers, this study is the first to quantify the importance of social networks over other factors, says Sonja Wild, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Cetaceans — dolphins, whales and porpoises — are known for using clever strategies to round up meals. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Alaska sometimes use their fins and circular bubble nets to catch fish (SN: 10/15/19). At Shark Bay, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) use sea sponges to protect their beaks while rooting for food on the seafloor, a strategy the animals learn from their mothers (SN: 6/8/05).

These Shark Bay dolphins also use a more unusual tool-based foraging method called shelling.  A dolphin will trap underwater prey in a large sea snail shell, poke its beak into the shell’s opening, lift the shell above the water’s surface and shake the contents into its mouth.

“It is pretty mind-blowing,” says Wild, who studied these dolphins as a graduate student at the University of Leeds in England. This brief behavior appears to be rare: From 2007 to 2018, Wild and colleagues documented 42 shelling events by 19 individual dolphins out of 5,278 dolphin group encounters in the western gulf of Shark Bay.

The researchers analyzed the behavior of 310 dolphins, including 15 shellers, that had been seen at least 11 times. The dolphins’ network of social interactions explained shelling’s spread better than other factors, including genetic relatedness and the amount of environmental overlap between dolphins. Wild likens the proliferation of this behavior to the spread of a virus. “Just by spending time with each other, [dolphins] are more likely to transmit those behaviors,” she says. The researchers estimate that 57 percent of the dolphins that shell learned the skill via social transmission, rather than on their own.

But the researchers may be premature in dismissing environmental and maternal factors, says Janet Mann, a biologist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who also studies dolphin behavior at Shark Bay. The environment affects where shelling can occur. “Those shells are found in particular habitats, and animals who overlap in those habitats would have access to those shells, but also bump into each other more often,” she says. A dolphin’s shelling behavior could also have been influenced during the tens of thousands of hours the animal spent as a youngster watching its mother.

“Dolphins are smart: They watch each other and see what others do,” she says.



Creds: https://www.sciencenews.org/

Why many good trainers are unhappy or cannot get a job?


Many good and experienced trainers are looking for jobs at the moment, many of them comment to me about their worries and frustration. They keep asking why, with all our experience, we cannot return to an animal trainer position.

Many professional trainers with excellent experience, good human qualities and team players, are very worried about their future. They either struggle to find a job, or when they do, they often do not seem to progress too far and seem to be the first to be laid off work

It is normal for trainers to feel confused and to ask themselves what they are doing wrong. This situation makes these trainers feel insecure about their abilities and skills.

I would like to suggest why this often happens, to help explain that it is not any fault of the trainer and to encourage trainers to keep positive and retain their dreams of furthering the career they love.

Here are some important observations to remember;

  • Some companies have little regard for quality and are happy to employ trainers who just do the minimum to get the job done. Much of what a good trainer can add, may not be appreciated by a new employer, so be patient and you may be able to eventually show how the extra care you take, is beneficial to them.
  • Remember companies hire trainers who will easily follow the system they have in place, so you will need to fit in. In time you may be able to suggest better ways of working, but this may not always be possible.
  • Where new Management comes in, a new company may bring their own trainers in or train new ones, so they retain their way of doing things, rather than have existing trainers, who may be reluctant to change to a new way of working.
  • You may get offered a job but the pay is much lower than you should be rewarded for your experience. Employers will always try to keep pay down if they can, consider the market at the time and the supply, you may need to the take a job and try to better your position in time, if you can.

We know these things are not fair, but this is a very competitive environment and you must learn to ride the wave in difficult times. Do not get disheartened with yourself, do not take it personal, it just the way business works. You just need to find out what works for you and find a way to go around any problem. You are a trainer; you solve problems not give in to them. Learn about the environment and adapt your behaviour to suit the business world you are wishing to operate in.

My advice at this difficult time;

  • Do to the Covid-19 virus, most jobs opportunities are frozen at the moment, many companies have laid off a big percentage of their staff, consequently you need to be patient, now more than ever.
  • During this crisis, use your time wisely, take every opportunity to study and increase your knowledge as much as you can, that way you will be more prepared, more effective and provide a better prospect for employers, when you seek your next opportunity.
  • Stay positive and ambitious, there will be opportunities in the future, make sure you are ready for them and stay alert to where and when they may arise.
  • Stay connected, we can help each other, sharing knowledge, experience, help and guidance as well as passing alerts for new jobs. We all need support, especially now, those in work can help alert others when new jobs arise, those out of work can give support to others in their position and those who can teach, can offer courses and mentoring, to improve the chances of trainers whatever their situation.

Finally, remember who you are, as trainers you already possess the skills to modify behaviour in animals, use your skills to control your behaviour and encourage through positive reinforcement, your path through this difficult time. Remember and celebrate your own ability, be creative, be patient and above all stay positive.

How to teach your dolphin to jump to the ball!!


Behavior Successive Approximation

Description: Teaching the dolphin how to touch the ball high in the air.

On the video you can learn and enjoy the successive approximation of this behavior.

Behaviour Stage: Level Two

Using our Step by Step Behaviour Training through positive reinforcement techniques.

If you have any question or any doubt about this behaviour training, please message us!!

Discover the History of Dolphin Show

This practice goes back to the nineteenth century when in 1860 a pair of belugas whales (Delphinapterus leucas) were held in the Museum of New York. Although Belugas are not precisely dolphins, the event marked a before and after in the dolphinarium industry. Several years passed until in 1938 the Marine Studios opened a dolphinarium in Florida, with the business model as we know today, this is, the one in which an audience pay to see dolphins doing tricks, and at that time they began with a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

Marine Studios of Florida, later became Marineland and it has the title of being the first dolphinarium in the world. In 2011 the Georgia Aquarium purchased the park.

When this park opened, people realized that dolphins were able to learn tricks and perform stunts if trained, so this created a whole new industry that grew over time, and many other dolphinariums opened to the public. By 1970, there were about 36 dolphinariums in the United Kingdom alone.

Keeping dolphins in captivity is a practice not approved by conservationists and animal rights protectors.

It is important to say that captive dolphins are not only in dolphinariums and water parks to amuse people who pay to see a show. Sometimes dolphins are there for the purpose of being studied or protected if they are in danger of extinction.




Creds: https://www.dolphins-world.com/

Find out how a dolphin can recognise their trainer

When 10 years has passed and you see with your own eyes, the proof of a unique bond between an animal and a human.

I was so flabbergasted it took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.

Misty… the closest animal to me and the smarted dolphin I have ever trained, proved to me once again, what a special bond we had after 10 years without interacting with each other.

When I remember how we found her, its breaks my heart!

She was just a baby, floating lifeless, like a piece of drift-wood in the open ocean, alone and close to dying, when we came to her rescue.

It was April the 4th 2005, she was a very sick, cast away from her family, very dehydrated body, with severe infections plus around six ulcers in her stomach, which I later observed through our endoscope camera.

After nursing her back to health, she soon became the most intelligent and responsive animal and after sleeping many nights by her side on the trainer’s platform, we developed a bond that was evident in her reaction to me, whenever we were together.

Fast forward now to two weeks ago, on a visit to see all my friends at Dolphin Cove Jamaica Ocho Rios, my one thought was how was Misty. She was 16 years old whilst I was there, so I wanted to see my young friend!  I was asked if I wanted to help feed her and naturally, with such a kind offer from the trainers who by now had heard of our history, I could not miss the chance to see Misty.

I gave her a tactile signal, which I used to give her always when we used to play, only she and I knew about it, it was our little secret… I was speechless when she responded positive and with fluency to my signal after 10 years…my heart was bursting with happiness, after she showed me that she remembered my unique signal and touch. I spent a short while with her and could tell by other unique signals and touches that she remembered each one perfectly.

It was an amazing experience and confirms my belief that not only are these beautiful animals so intelligent, but that a special bond can exist between a trainer with an honest kind heart, putting their love into how they treat their animal and an animal respecting that treatment. Often, Misty offered to perform without constant positive reinforcement, because she trusted me to reward fully at the end of the program, this was also somewhat unique to Misty and I, but it also demonstrates what can happen, if you treat the animals with love and respect.

In my experience, having a particular tactile signal (SD) for a very simple behaviour, one that only you and your dolphin knows, proves an animal can remember specific signals for many years, years that they have not been in contact with that trainer or signal. The story about my recent encounter with Misty demonstrated this perfectly to me.

A big thank you to you guys at Ocho Rios for making this experience possible, it will remain in my heart, as will Misty, forever.

Indo-Pacific bottle-nose dolphin

The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) is a species of bottlenose dolphin. This dolphin grows to 2.6 m (8.5 ft) long, and weighs up to 230 kg (510 lb).[3] It lives in the waters around India, northern Australia, South China, the Red Sea, and the eastern coast of Africa. Its back is dark grey and its belly is lighter grey or nearly white with grey spots.

Until 1998, all bottlenose dolphins were considered members of the single species T. Truncatus. In that year, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was recognized as a separate species. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is generally smaller than the common bottlenose dolphin, has a proportionately longer rostrum, and has spots on its belly and lower sides. It also has more teeth than the common bottlenose dolphin — 23 to 29 teeth on each side of each jaw compared to 21 to 24 for the common bottlenose dolphin.[6] Some evidence shows the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin may actually be more closely related to certain dolphin species in the genera Stenella and Delphinus, especially the Atlantic spotted dolphin (S. frontalis), than it is to the common bottlenose dolphin.

Much of the old scientific data in the field combine data about the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the common bottlenose dolphin into a single group, making it effectively useless in determining the structural differences between the two species. The IUCN lists the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin as “near threatened” in their Red List of endangered species.

Behaviour

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins live in groups that can number in the hundreds, but groups of five to 15 dolphins are most common. In some parts of their range, they associate with the common bottlenose dolphin and other dolphin species, such as the humpback dolphin.

The peak mating and calving seasons are in the spring and summer, although mating and calving occur throughout the year in some regions. Gestation period is about 12 months. Calves are between 0.84 and 1.5 m (2.8 and 4.9 ft) long, and weigh between 9 and 21 kg (20 and 46 lb). The calves are weaned between 1.5 and 2.0 years, but can remain with their mothers for up to 5 years. The interbirth interval for females is typically 4 to 6 years.

In some parts of its range, this dolphin is subject to predation by sharks; its lifespan is more than 40 years.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins located in Shark Bay, Australia, are thought to have a symbiotic relationship with sponges by doing what is called “sponging”. A dolphin breaks a marine sponge off the sea floor and wears it over its rostrum, apparently to probe substrates for fish, possibly as a tool, or simply for play.

The first report and footage of spontaneous ejaculation in an aquatic mammal was recorded in a wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin near Mikura Island, Japan, in 2012.

A tribe of Austral indigenous people on the Mornington Island have been communicating with wild dolphins for millennia. They are said to have “a medicine man who calls the dolphins and “speaks” to them telepathically. By these communications he assures that the tribes’ fortunes and happiness are maintained.”



Source: WKPD

Like humans, beluga whales form social networks beyond family ties


Beluga whales

Study first to uncover the role kinship plays in complex groupings and relationships of beluga whales spanning 10 locations across the Arctic

A groundbreaking study using molecular genetic techniques and field studies brings together decades of research into the complex relationships among beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) that spans 10 locations across the Arctic from Alaska to Canada and Russia to Norway. The behavior of these highly gregarious whales, which include sophisticated vocal repertoires, suggest that this marine mammal lives in complex societies. Like killer whales (Orcinus orca) and African elephants (Loxodonta Africana), belugas were thought to form social bonds around females that primarily comprise closely related individuals from the same maternal lineage. However, this hypothesis had not been formally tested.

The study, led by Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is the first to analyze the relationship between group behaviors, group type, group dynamics, and kinship in beluga whales. Findings, just published in Scientific Reports, reveal several unexpected results. Not only do beluga whales regularly interact with close kin, including close maternal kin, they also frequently associate with more distantly related and unrelated individuals.

Findings indicate that evolutionary explanations for group living and cooperation in beluga whales must expand beyond strict inclusive fitness arguments to include other evolutionary mechanisms. Belugas likely form multi-scale societies from mother-calf dyads to entire communities. From these perspectives, beluga communities have similarities to human societies where social networks, support structures, cooperation and cultures involve interactions between kin and non-kin. Given their long lifespan (approximately 70 years) and tendency to remain within their natal community, these findings reveal that beluga whales may form long-term affiliations with unrelated as well as related individuals.

“This research will improve our understanding of why some species are social, how individuals learn from group members and how animal cultures emerge,” said Greg O’Corry-Crowe, Ph.D., lead author and a research professor at FAU’s Harbor Branch. “It also has implications for traditional explanations based on matrilineal care for a very rare life-history trait in nature, menopause, which has only been documented in a handful of mammals, including beluga whales and humans.”

Researchers found that belugas formed a limited number of group types, from mother-calf dyads to adult male groups, and from mixed-age groups to large herds. These same group types were consistently observed across population and habitats. Furthermore, certain behaviors were associated with group type, and group membership was found to often be dynamic.

“Unlike killer and pilot whales, and like some human societies, beluga whales don’t solely or even primarily interact and associate with close kin. Across a wide variety of habitats and among both migratory and resident populations, they form communities of individuals of all ages and both sexes that regularly number in the hundreds and possibly the thousands,” said O’Corry-Crowe. “It may be that their highly developed vocal communication enables them to remain in regular acoustic contact with close relatives even when not associating together.”

Beluga whale groupings (beyond mother-calf dyads) were not usually organized around close maternal relatives. The smaller social groups, as well as the larger herds, routinely comprised multiple matrilines. Even where group members shared the same mtDNA lineage, microsatellite analysis often revealed that they were not closely related, and many genealogical links among group members involved paternal rather than maternal relatives. These results differ from earlier predictions that belugas have a matrilineal social system of closely associating female relatives. They also differ from the association behavior of the larger toothed whales that informed those predictions. In ‘resident’ killer whales, for example, both males and females form groups with close maternal kin where they remain for their entire lives.

“Beluga whales exhibit a wide range of grouping patterns from small groups of two to 10 individuals to large herds of 2,000 or more, from apparently single sex and age-class pods to mixed-age and sex groupings, and from brief associations to multi-year affiliations,” said O’Corry-Crowe. “This variation suggests a fission-fusion society where group composition and size are context-specific, but it may also reflect a more rigid multi-level society comprised of stable social units that regularly coalesce and separate. The role kinship plays in these groupings has been largely unknown.”

For the study, researchers used field observations, mtDNA profiling, and multi-locus genotyping of beluga whales to address fundamental questions about beluga group structure, and patterns of kinship and behavior, which provide new insights into the evolution and ecology of social structure in this Arctic whale.

The study was conducted at 10 locations, in different habitats, across the species’ range, spanning from small, resident groups (Yakutat Bay) and populations (Cook Inlet) in subarctic Alaska to larger, migratory populations in the Alaskan (Kasegaluk Lagoon, Kotzebue Sound, Norton Sound), Canadian (Cunningham Inlet, Mackenzie Delta, Husky Lakes) and Russian (Gulf of Anadyr) Arctic to a small, insular population in the Norwegian High Arctic (Svalbard).

“This new understanding of why individuals may form social groups, even with non-relatives, will hopefully promote new research on what constitutes species resilience and how species like the beluga whale can respond to emerging threats including climate change,” said O’Corry-Crowe.



Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/