DOL­PHIN BE­HAV­IOUR AT MONKEY MIA

Be­ing highly in­tel­li­gent and so­cia­ble an­i­mals, dol­phins ex­hibit a lot of re­peat and pre­dictable in­ter­ac­tions as they go about their daily lives. Here are some to watch for.

Australian Geographic - - Geo buzz -

A dol­phin can eat up to 12kg a day. Calves stay close to their moth­ers for the first 3–4 years.

1 EAT­ING

Monkey Mia’s dol­phins eat mostly fish, al­though squid, cut­tle­fish and rays are also on the menu. Dol­phins can travel at up to 40km/h while feed­ing, but gen­er­ally swim much more slowly. Pel­i­cans of­ten fol­low them to steal fish dur­ing speed feed­ing close to the Monkey Mia beach.

2 REST­ING

An un­con­scious dol­phin in the wa­ter would drown.

And so a dol­phin ‘sleeps’ by shut­ting down half its brain at a time.

While it does this it re­mains at the sur­face of the wa­ter with one eye open and its blow­hole safely ex­posed.

3 AL­LIANCES

‘First-or­der al­liances’ are pairs or trios of male dol­phins. Some­times two such al­liances co­op­er­ate in a ‘sec­ond-or­der al­liance’. An al­liance will herd a fe­male, fol­low­ing her and keep­ing her at their side, and some­times mak­ing a loud com­mo­tion be­fore mat­ing with her.

4 SCRATCH­ING

Dol­phins some­times need to scratch, which is not easy with­out arms. When a dol­phin at Monkey Mia gets an itch, it puts moor­ing lines to good use by swim­ming along and rub­bing against them. Vis­i­tors must not shake th­ese lines while dol­phins are scratch­ing.

5 SNACK­ING

Calves of­ten catch tiny bait­fish by ‘snack­ing’, a tech­nique where the calf swims belly-up and traps tiny fish close to the sur­face. Adults can some­times also be seen snack­ing just off Monkey Mia.

6 GROW­ING UP

Calves learn to hunt from about five months of age, but con­tinue to take milk from their moth­ers for up to four years. Dur­ing this time they spend much of their time swim­ming in the ‘baby po­si­tion’ be­neath their moth­ers, watch­ing and learn­ing.

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