Scientists in Bermuda have been given a glimpse into the lives of the dolphins in island waters. In August last year, four dolphins were tagged by a team from Dolphin Quest in collaboration with other international organisations. The aim was to understand how dolphins behave when in relatively pristine waters.
The results from the tagging included a dive of 1,008 m – a new record for Bottlenose dolphins. Since tracking began, each dolphin has made dives below 50 m lasting more than 12 min (up to >13.8 min). A female dolphin, nicknamed Paget, also swam over 800km to a series of seamounts.
For the project, each dolphin was fitted with a custom designed tag and given a health assessment, including an ultrasound, a custom flowmeter to measure lung function, and the collection of measurements and biological samples. The data collected will be compared with other wild dolphin populations as well as with healthy dolphins in professional human care.
Dr. Andreas Fahlman, lead investigator of the Wild Dolphin Project and Director of Research at Oceanografic Foundation in Valencia, says that the lung function data collected are vital to understand how Bermuda’s deep diving dolphins differ from their shallow-diving cousins in Sarasota Bay, Florida and how they can regularly dive to more than 900 m for more than 13 minutes without being affected by the extreme pressure or decompression sickness. “This information will assist veterinarians caring for stranded dolphins and may provide important clues of clinical significance for humans.”
The tags stopped transmitting in November and the group are still analysing the data. It’s hoped that the study will also help scientists understand how to restore ecosystems after man-made disasters like over-fishing or oil spills.