Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dolphin Snacks

Louie and Luna are like two peas in a pod.

One of the most common questions staff and volunteers are asked at Dolphin Research Center is, “do the dolphins eat the fish in their lagoons”? Our typical response is that they get free room service every day, so they’re pretty content with eating what’s in their bucket. However, the dolphins do enjoy playing and eating fish in their lagoons.

Louie, being a rescue from Louisiana, loves to munch on shrimp. He’s been known to wander away from his dock and chase them around the lagoon. This begins as a play time session that turns into building anticipation as his crowd wonders whether he will or will not gobble it down. Just when we think Louie is going to let the little shrimp swim off, he’s swallowed them.

While he does like to chomp on the shellfish in between sessions, he loves to make a big production out of eating in front of an audience. Being a smart little guy, Louie may listen in on narrations and know that his human friends get asked that question every day. What better way to educate the public than have a dolphin show them?

Louie isn’t the only young dolphin who loves to play with fishy lagoon friends. Luna spends a lot of time chasing minnows around the water. You’ll often find her swimming in circles by herself with her mouth open. To her, they’re like dolphin popcorn.

Cayo has gotten in on the action too. She enjoys a sardine chase. Cayo can often be seen speeding around the lagoon. While she’s not food motivated, Cayo is a very active dolphin. She entertains herself by giving the fish a food scare.

Some of the dolphins use the fish in their lagoons as a bargaining tool. When she finds one, Santini shows it off to her trainers and makes a big production out of having grabbed one. She knows that the trainers will trade her herring to try to save the fish.

Like every other behavior, the dolphins learn how to hunt their prey from their mothers. You’ll find that a calf reacts to fish the same way that their mothers do. Dolphins like Louie, have learned how to hunt fish from his adoptive family here at DRC.

The dolphins do different things with the fish and critters that live in their lagoons. Some eat them, some chase them, some scare them, and some use them for entertainment. Living in a natural environment, there are lots of dolphin snacks and play things swimming around.