Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mother Knows Best

Here at Dolphin Research Center, we have an excellent reason for teaching the dolphins a behavior called beaching. For this behavior, they bring their entire bodies up out of the water onto one of the floating docks. We have a flat metal scale we can put on the docks and then, when they beach on it, we can obtain an accurate weight.

To us, it’s an important voluntary medical behavior. The dolphins just think it’s fun! When Santini and Merina first learned to beach, they’d practice it by themselves all the time. We’d look over and see dolphins posing on the dock for guests. Their older kids, Pandora, Calusa and Tanner did the same thing when it was their turn to learn. It’s no surprise that Ras, Santini’s young daughter, is already slipping and sliding her way across the dock and Cayo (Merina’s youngest) is quickly progressing.

Tursi is another matter. While Tursi will beach on request, she’s often finicky about it and prefers to do it on the very edge of the dock. She is not sure at all that her daughter is old enough to be learning this particular behavior. Well, Gypsi has a mind of her own and she doesn’t want Mom to keep her from doing things that her slightly older friends are trying.

Gypsi shows us that she definitely has a mind of her own!
The other day, Gypsi succeeded in eluding her mother long enough so that she could boost her entire little body up out of the water onto one of the docks. Santini decided to join her in the behavior. However, when she came up, she slid into Gypsi a bit and the youngster ended more in the middle of the dock, and unable to wiggle herself off back into the water.

Seconds after Santini slipped from the dock, mother Tursi noticed what had happened. She sped up, launched herself out of the water in perfect beaching style right to the center of the dock and bumped Gypsi back into the water! She then chased her little girl around the lagoon, as if to say, “See what happened? I told you not to do that!” Gypsi kept leaping out of the water as if answering, “Okay, okay! I get it now!”

Tursi knows best when it comes to her daughter!

We don’t know how long the lesson will stick, but knowing Gypsi, she’ll continue practicing her beaching whenever she can do it without Tursi stopping her. As for Tursi, we always knew she could beach perfectly. She’s just reinforced that she prefers to do it on her terms!