The US Navy’s marine mammal program began in the 1960s and is still going strong. The department has specially trained dolphins that identify underwater mines, defend the waters, and even protect some of America’s nuclear stockpiles. Now researchers are strapping cameras to those dolphins to gain insight.
Seriously, if US Navy dolphins don’t sound wild enough, now a team of researchers has put cameras on their backs and managed to capture some truly amazing footage. Six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) they were free to roam San Diego Bay off the California coast for six months. The cameras captured unique images, wacky audio, and dolphin noises as they gathered new information about how these mammals hunt.
The team’s research shows dolphins flying through the water at incredible speeds, hunting, making cute screeches, and their hunting methods are published in PLOS One.
The dolphins caught and ate more than 200 fish and sea snakes during the six-month experiment. Some images give researchers a new perspective on what mammals will actually eat. And today I found out that there are sea snakes off the coast of California, which is horrible.
In the video above, you can hear the wild noises coming from a dolphin, along with other clicking sounds, which probably help the dolphins to communicate and hunt.
“The fish continued to swim away even as they entered the dolphin’s mouth, but the dolphin appeared to suck the fish downward,” the researchers wrote. While some had cameras mounted on nostrils, others stood off to the side to view the dolphin’s eyes and mouth. The researchers observed that the dolphins’ eyes constantly rotated to follow their prey. And although dolphins are fast and agile, it seems that during feeding time they use a technique to expand their throats with strong muscles and suck up fish and prey, instead of catching them with all those teeth.
To close, the researchers mentioned placing cameras on dolphins in the wild to see if the results are similar, since they are mammals in captivity. And although the program has been criticized, these sea dolphins swim in open water every day and can swim away if they wish. Some have, but most end up staying. Either way, some of the photos and videos are wild.