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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dusky dolphins

Dusky dolphins

Duskies are smaller than many dolphins, reaching a length of five to six or so feet. They have very short beaks and distinctive black and white coloring, but the most noted characteristic of the duskies is their highly acrobatic leaps. In addition to helping propel them more quickly through the water, duskies may be leaping for their dinner. By leaping high, they may be locating their prey by spotting flocks of birds feeding on schooling fish, sometimes miles away. These leaps also might communicate to other dolphins that dinner is near.

The dolphins begin their search for food in groups of 20 or more. Würsig thinks that duskies watch for birds circling above the water and feeding on fish as a signal that anchovies are near. The several groups then race toward the school of anchovies and begin cooperatively herding the fish into a swirling school. The dolphins drive the fish toward the ocean's surface, using it as a barrier or wall that the anchovies cannot escape. At this point, there may be hundreds of dolphins working together to herd and consume the anchovies. The duskies call to one another in loud, excited squawks and whistles, leaping and slapping the water with their tails as they take turns herding and feeding.



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