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A quest to learn more about our dolphins

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Best buddies: Dolphin Quest trainer Krysta Walker with Cavello, aged 5

A team of researchers has visited Bermuda to study the local dolphin population.

Dolphin Quest spokesman Jason Price said the research team included Andreas Fahalman of Texas A & M University and representatives from both the Chicago Zoological Society and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “The team of wildlife biologists, cetologists and veterinarians are interested in learning more about the diving physiology of Bermuda’s deep diving dolphins, how far they travel, how deep they dive, the metabolic costs of these deep dives and what unique factors allow them to dive to such great depths,” Mr Price said.

“Past project results recorded for the first time a dive of over 900m.

“They are interested in looking at genetics, monitoring reproduction, tracking animals over time with animal IDs and monitoring contaminant loads to compare to dolphins that have been studied for decades on the East Coast of the US and the Gulf of Mexico.

“Although the team was unable to place satellite tags and gather additional data this time due to poor weather conditions, the research team did spot several pods of dolphins, two mother calf pairs, and the team was able to gather important photo IDs of the animals. Seeing very young and active dolphins in a small group is a good sign, however we cannot say if they were healthy.”

Mr Price said the pods were seen around eight to ten miles off the coast of the Island in around 1,000m of water.

He explained that not much is known about the deep water dolphins that live in Bermuda’s waters, and the research project was hoped to identify any environmental elements affecting them. “The Bermuda dolphins are also believed to be an isolated population from most other dolphins, so gathering information from these animals and comparing it to healthy dolphins in human care at Dolphin Quest as well as dolphins in US waters will give scientists valuable information about the health of these populations and their environments,” he said. “The ‘canaries in the coal mine’ analogy is a good fit with dolphins.

“As a predator at the top of the food chain, they can be a great indicator of the health of their ocean environment, and can help us understand and detect contaminants as well as the amount of food resources in certain areas.”

Dolphin Quest Trainer Krysta Walker with Bailey age 26. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Dolphin Quest Trainer Krysta Walker with Bailey age 26. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Dolphin Quest Trainer Krysta Walker with Bailey age 26. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)