Monday, February 13, 2012

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Rare Spectacle - Whales and Dolphins Play in Hawaiian Waters!

Images produced by the National Center for science Literacy, Education and Technology (NCSLET) showed a rare from of interaction in the wild between two species. Bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales were captured playing in Hawaiian waters.

According to a paper published in the Aquatic Mammals Journal, based on what is known about the behaviour of both species, play was the most plausible explanation of the observed interaction. The paper observed that humpback whales are known to engage in "object play," and "social play" is a common occurrence among dolphins, but never has the behaviour been observed in the wild to extend across species boundaries. According to the paper, given the "apparent initiation and cooperation of each dolphin being lifted, object (i.e., the dolphin) play by the whale and social play by the dolphin seem to be the most plausible explanations for the interaction."

Science Bulletins reports the images were taken from two locations in Hawaii. The dolphins were seen "riding" playfully on the heads of whales. The whale lifts the dolphin up and out of the water and when the dolphin slips back, tail first, into the water, the whale picks the dolphin up and the motion is repeated with the obvious cooperation of the dolphin.Science Bulletins observes: "The two species seemed to cooperate in the activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress." The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) share a common habitat. Observation of what appears playful frolicking between the two species is considered significant because most interspecies interactions in the wild are aggressive predator and prey interactions. Science Bulletin comments further: "Whales and dolphins in Hawaiian waters often interact, but playful social activity such as this is extremely rare between species." Bulletins says these are the "first recorded examples of this type of behavior [in the wild]." - Digital Journal
WATCH: Whales give dolphins a lift.

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