Two distinct bottlenose dolphin populations in Moreton Bay, Australia have joined together.
These dolphins previously lived in two groups that rarely interacted. One of the groups foraged primarily on bycatch from fishing trawlers while the other fed on natural sources. Scientists think that a ban on fishing boats has has ended the division. Fewer trawlers have caused the two groups to need to work together to hunt.
This union has allowed scientists to study the adaptability of dolphin society.
“There’s never been really any experiments looking at social structure…where you can compare what it was like before and what it is like now,” explained Dr. Ina Ansmann, lead author of the study and marine vertebrate ecologist at the University of Queensland.
The results suggest that dolphins have a very flexible social structure that influences how dolphins are capable of exploiting a wide range of marine resources. Now that the second group also has to rely on natural food sources, Dr Ansmann explains that “it’s more important for them to interact with others, or to learn from others, or to cooperate with others to get these food sources.”
You can read the full study, published in the journal, Animal Behavior, here: Dolphins restructure social system after reduction of commercial fisheries.
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.