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