The U.S. Navy’s marine mammal program started in the 1960s and is still going strong. The department has specially trained dolphins that identify undersea mines, defend the waters, and even protect some of the U.S. nuclear reserves. Now, researchers are strapping cameras to those dolphins to gather insight.
Seriously, if U.S. Navy dolphins didn’t sound wild enough, now a team of researchers put cameras on their backs and managed to capture some truly amazing footage. Six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were free to roam the San Diego Bay off the coast of California for six months. The cameras captured unique footage, crazy audio, and dolphin noises while gathering new information about how these mammals hunt.
The team’s research showcases the dolphins flying through the water at incredible speeds, hunting, making cute squealing noises, and their hunting methods are published in PLOS One.
The dolphins caught and ate over 200 fish and sea snakes throughout the six-month experiment. Some footage gives researchers new insight into what the mammals will actually eat. And today, I learned that there are sea snakes off the coast of California, which is horrifying.
In the video above, you can hear the wild noises coming from one dolphin, along with other clicking sounds, which likely helps the dolphins communicate and hunt.
“Fish continued escape swimming even as they entered the dolphins’ mouth, yet the dolphin appeared to suck the fish right down,” the researchers wrote. While some had blowhole-mounted cameras, others were on the side to see the dolphin’s eyes and mouth. The researchers observed the dolphins’ eyes constantly swiveling to track their prey. And while dolphins are fast and agile, it looks like during meal time, they use a technique to expand their throats with strong muscles and suck down fish and prey, rather than catch them with all those teeth.
In closing, the researchers mentioned putting cameras on dolphins in the wild to see if the results are similar, as these are captive mammals. And while the program has been the subject of criticism, these navy-seal dolphins swim in open waters daily and can swim away if they want. Some have, but most end up staying. Either way, some of the photos and videos are wild.
via Science Alert