The relationship between dolphins and humans goes back centuries, the first images of dolphins can be traced back as far as 1500BC. In Greek mythology, dolphins often surrounded Poseidon; they also frequently accompanied Aphrodite, the goddess of love. And in one tale, Dionysus (the god of wine and ritual madness) was rescued from a band of pirates, by dolphins.
To balance out the tale, we should mention that there were also some cultures that viewed them as a resource, hunting them as a food source. Some societies continue this practice, but they are very much in the minority.
Today, in Freycinet, we mainly see two species. The Bottle Nosed and the Common dolphin. The easiest was to tell them apart is by their colouring. Bottlenose are varying shades of grey, graduating to a white / light underbelly. The Common Dolphins are also grey but have a distinct, hourglass shape of white, or brownish white on their flanks which is easily seen when they play above the surface.
Both species are very social; they live in large groups called pods. When we see them inside the bay, they are usually in smaller groups of 12 – 30, but pod sizes can be in the thousands. They use touch and echo location to interact with each other and are very active and playful together. Vocalisations include whistling, whining and clicking. And they love to surf, which is completely endearing. Other play activities include somersaults, pitch poling, breaching and bow riding. Like whales, they also spy hop – a technique that allows them the poke their head just above the water to see what’s going on. Quite amazingly, they can see just as well out of water as they can under it, and they are able to move their eyes independently of each other.
In general, dolphins are impressive and fascinating animals. They have larger brains than humans, split into 4 regions instead of 3. Dolphins don’t sleep, as such – they nap for around 30 minutes at a time, with one side of their brain remaining active.
Each species of dolphin differs slightly…. But we’ll get into the specifics of that another day. In the meantime, if you are really into this topic, we found this funky podcast completely devoted it!