Six In A Pod

The Guardian, Stuart Westmoreland/Corbis

Of course, after I just recently noted that I hadn’t seen wild bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon travel in classically sized groups, I finally saw a relatively large pod today near Grant and Sebastian Inlet.  A loose group of six – at least one of which was an obvious calf – were working a shoal of pinfish and mullet at a spot called Fisherman’s Landing.  In addition to some impressive examples of bubble netting and bait balling the animals were also raising their tail flukes out of the water and slamming them back on the water’s surface.  Tail-lobbing is considered either a sign of aggression and dominance between pod members or a potential method of communication in loud seas.  The wind gusts were easily 25 km/h plus in the area and there was considerable surface chop so it could have easily been either. 

There is another potential explanation for the behavior; a fish-catching move called fish whacking.  While I did not observe any fish stomping or kicking its possible that the murky waters concealed what was truly taking place.

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2 Comments to “Six In A Pod”

  1. FWIW, the folks at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program eschew the term “pod” when referring to dolphins in their study area (shallow, in-shore, Florida waters). As you’ve noted, bottlenose dolphins do not have a stable, pod-like structure to their social groups. While some individuals seems to form long-term associations, they are all pretty fluid. So what do you call a group of dolphins? In typical research fashion they use the less satisfying term “fission-fusion groups.” Makes the researchers sound like physicist and the dolphins sound like elementary particles. 😛

    http://www.sarasotadolphin.org/Social/

  2. Someone told me that rogue male dolphins often travel alone. I can’t attest to validity of that …