NW dol­phins part of study

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

How do you re­search an un­der­wa­ter an­i­mal which doesn’t want you or your boat near it and is mostly found only in iso­lated parts of Aus­tralia?

Flin­ders Univer­sity bi­o­log­i­cal sciences PhD can­di­date Tim Hunt has been part of a re­search team un­cov­er­ing the se­crets of the North West Cape’s hump­back dol­phins for the past four years.

Mr Hunt said un­like bot­tlenose dol­phins, the hump­back tended to be skit­tish around boats and peo­ple.

“We use the term cryptic be­cause they sur­face dif­fer­ently to bot­tlenose dol­phins and have a tri­an­gu­lar fin . . . they don’t bow ride ei­ther so you need a big, long lens and some good weather con­di­tions to ac­tu­ally be able to study them and get pho­tos of their dor­sal fins.” Mr Hunt said the team be­lieved the hump­back dolphin would be listed as threat­ened, but there was not enough data at present to make a solid de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Ce­tacean Ecol­ogy, Be­hav­iour and Evo­lu­tion Lab se­nior lec­turer Guido Parra said the find­ings were im­por­tant given the Nin­ga­loo Reef was on the doorstep of ma­jor con­struc­tion and ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­ity.

“We have iden­ti­fied an im­por­tant area for this poorly known threat­ened species, and most of our study area ac­tu­ally lies within a ma­rine Pro­tected Area,” he said.

The study was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Flin­ders Univer­sity and Mur­doch Univer­sity, with funds from the Aus­tralian Ma­rine Mam­mal Cen­tre and Winifred Vi­o­let Scott Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Pic­ture: Tim Hunt

An Aus­tralian hump­back dolphin calf leaps out of the wa­ter at Nin­ga­loo.

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