Dolphin Quest joins injury study
A team of scientists have partnered with Dolphin Quest Bermuda for a new study which could help prevent boat-related injuries to wild dolphins.
Jason Bruck, dolphin researcher from Oklahoma State University's Department of Integrative Biology, came to the island to carry out a study on blind spots in dolphin vision.
It is hoped the results will help create guidelines for boaters to avoid collisions.
The study could also help researchers use drones to collect hormone samples from the breath exhaled from wild dolphins' blowholes without startling them.
By measuring the dolphins' hormone levels, researchers can study the effect of human-related stressors such as industrial oil extraction, shipping noises and military sonar. Dr Burck said: “We are trying to understand where dolphins can see and where they can't see around their head.
“They have eyes on the opposite sides of their heads, and we think they are pretty good at seeing things from the sides, but we hypothesise that they have a blind spot above their heads based on behavioural anecdotes taken from those who work with dolphins on a daily basis. However, we have never systematically studied that, so this is one of the things we are studying this summer in Bermuda at our partner facility Dolphin Quest.”
He said that, by identifying where their blind spots are, researchers can use drones to non-invasively collect breath samples from the dolphins.
A spokesman explained that, as part of the project, the dolphins are trained to swim into a specially designed open “globe” with LED lights and asked to whistle when they see a light turn on.
By recording when the dolphins whistle, the researchers can determine what lights they can and cannot see.
“This is a very important study because it highlights the value of animals under human care and their relation to helping animals in the wild,” Dr Bruck said.
“Having the ability to work with facilities like Dolphin Quest is critically important in order for us to get data to help wild animals.
“Dolphins in the wild are not going to give us the opportunity to look at their field of vision with a globe structure over their heads, but we can collect that information from the dolphins at Dolphin Quest.”