Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dolphins Smiling in the Sound

There's a new issue of the Long Island Sound Study's newsletter out now, with a terrific day-by-day account of the visit of the bottlenose dolphins to the Sound in June. Kimberly Durham of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation wrote the article. Here are a few excerpts:

The species are identified as coastal bottlenose dolphins and the composition of the group is classified as a mixture of adults, juveniles, and calves. The dolphins are observed exhibiting a mixture of behaviors including lunge feeding, porpoising (leaping), breaching, and tail slapping.

(Editor's question: if when a dolphin leaps it is called "porpoising," is it called "dolphining" when a porpoise leaps?)

Documentation of calves approximately one month in age excites the biologists as they listen to the dolphins vocalize in association with breaching, tail slapping and spy hopping (rises and holds position partially out of the water) behaviors....

Scattered sightings of isolated groupings of the dolphins continue throughout the weekend followed by the report of a large group of animals heading in a westerly direction along the south shore of Long Island. Although sightings of dolphins within Long Island Sound have decreased over the course of the summer, dolphins have continued to be reported along the south shore of Long Island in large pods.

The reason people were so excited about the dolphins is simple: it's very rare to see them in the Sound and a pod of 200 is almost unheard of:

Historic sightings of dolphins and porpoises within the Long Island Sound can be dated back to pre-World War II times when pods of dolphins were a familiar sight to mariners and residents along the north shore of Long Island. Over the last few decades these sightings have become less frequent. Reports of cetaceans have been reduced to isolated individuals often compromised or stranded along the shoreline.

The whole newsletter issue is good. You can find it here.

Listen to the Byrds' "Dolphin's Smile" from a terrific album called The Notorious Byrd Brothers


Blogger Sam said...

Perhaps I need an education here but my impression was there were "bay dolphins" and all the others were regular ocean dwelling dolphins. The term "coastal" might have confused me.

The bay dolphins I know are lighter in color and slightly smaller than their oceanic siblings. The bay dolphins exclusively feed in inshore bays, sounds, and seas in shallower water, and rarely travel great distances. For that reason, the bay dolphin tend to have more injuries from fishing lines and propellers, which is how we ID them. But the males like to bite each others fins, too.

Some work done by local scientists such as Texas A&M Marine Lab and others have postulated that bay dolphins are genetically distinct from ocean dolphins. This makes some sense to me especially if you have a resident population of maybe two or three pods of 30 females plus their calves (grown males are solitary roamers but also stay local mostly).

Anyway I find it an intriguing topic. Perhaps Long Island Sound is coming back with a resident population of "bay" dolphins? At any rate, if you don't have bait, you won't have dolphins, a proven fact. And for the Sound, that might be very, very good news.

sam wells, lower texas, usa

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Further on the subject of '60s psychidelic music referencing sea mammals, my favorite, from one of my favorite movies:


10:54 AM  

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