Dolphins

Includes orcas

Harbour porpoise in Denmark.
Harbour porpoise in Denmark.

How toothed whales use echolocation to hunt

Can hunting by echolocation be as fast as hunting by sight?

As visual animals, we may find this a peculiar question—not so if one applies it to animals that hunt using echolocation, like bats, dolphins and whales. These animals emit clicking sounds and use the reflected echoes to determine the location of objects and other animals.

Can animals that hunt using echolocation lock onto their prey and track their movements, and how fast can they react? These were questions that an international team of researchers sought to answer.

Screengrab from New Scientist's video showing the mud ring made by the dolphins in the Caribbean.
Screengrab from New Scientist's video showing the mud ring made by the dolphins in the Caribbean.

Dolphins in Caribbean trap fish with mud nets

In 2019, a pair of bottlenose dolphins in the Caribbean—a mother and her calf—was filmed in the Chetumal-Corozal Bay in northern Belize using mud rings to catch fish.

This method of catching fish was first observed and documented in several parts of Florida by Stefanie Gazda, a researcher from University of Florida in 2005.

Mmo iwdg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Long-finned pilot whale cow with her calf, off the coast of Ireland. Photo by Mmo iwdg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Buoy in Celtic Sea tracks oceanic noise

Equipped with an autonomous hydrophone, the buoy's function is to conduct for the first time real-time acoustic monitoring of the water's cetaceans to assess how oceanic noise pollution affects them. 

Deployed as part of the Smart Whale Sounds project, it will also track the distribution and behaviour of whale species in real-time and be used to train machine learning models to identify different species' calls. 

The so-called “dive response” is not merely a reflex in dolphins, but an active response.

Why aren’t dolphins getting bent?

Marine mammals are not above the physical principles and processes that lead to bubble formation in tissues following decompression. Scientists once thought that diving marine mammals were immune from decompression sickness, but beached whales have been found to have gas bubbles in their tissues—a sign of the bends. In any case, how some marine mammals and turtles can repeatedly dive as deep and as long as they do has perplexed scientists for a very long time.

Swimming with dolphins
Swimming with and learning from dolphins

Learning the swimming secrets of dolphins and whales

This scenario may one day become reality. And to be efficient, such robots would need to be maneuverable and stealthy, and be able to closely mimic the movements of the marine creatures.

Scientists like Keith W. Moored are working on the next generation of underwater robots by studying the movements of dolphins and whales. "We're studying how these animals are designed and what's beneficial about that design in terms of their swimming performance, or the fluid mechanics of how they swim."

Record numbers of marine mammals, like bottlenose dolphins, have been recorded in the United Kingdom.

UK sees record sightings of whales, dolphins and seals

The Wildlife Trusts, which comprises 46 individual wildlife trusts around the country, reports record numbers of more than 800 sightings of whales, dolphins and seals in the waters of the United Kingdom in 2019.

Its Yorkshire project reported hundreds of individual sightings by trained citizen scientists. Among these were a pod of bottlenose dolphins making their way from Scotland to Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire-the farthest south they had been officially identified.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises should be enjoyed in the wild, not in captivity.

More companies cut ties with attractions housing captive cetaceans

Whether or not you have watched (or agree with) the movies Free Willy or Blackfish, the predicament of captive cetaceans is one that can spark off a heated debate from both sides of the fence.

Nonetheless, such movies and increased awareness have led to public calls for attractions and venues that keep wild animals captive to release them.

Marine-animal attractions like SeaWorld are particularly under fire due to their animal shows featuring captive cetaceans trained to perform for public entertainment.

A new study propose alternative mechanisms for how marine vertebrates control gas exchange in the lungs

New hypothesis into how whales avoid getting the bends

When air-breathing mammals dive, their lungs compress. The ultra-deep-diving feats of some marine mammals go beyond our current understanding of respiratory physiology and lung mechanics. But historically, researchers assumed the chest structure of marine mammals meant their lungs compressed automatically at great depths, an adaptation that prevented them from taking up excess nitrogen and getting the bends.

Many species of whales and dolphins have supersensitive hearing because they use sound to navigate

Whales and dolphins naturally muffle loud sounds

Instead of wearing earplugs at a rock concert, imagine you could simply tune a dial inside your ears to lower the volume and protect your hearing. In a new report published in Integrative Zoology, researchers have discovered four whale species and dolphins can do just that. This could potentially shield the animals from navy sonar and oil drilling, linked to at least 500 marine mammal deaths since 1963.