Entries in #food (4)

Thursday
Mar022017

Pizza And Peter  Pan

Los Cristianos is the sort of place where you can get a full English breakfast or a Subway as readily as you can in London. There's nothing wrong with that but I'm quite glad that there's big swathes of this island which aren't really like that at all.

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Monday
Nov282016

Tastes of Tenerife

Ask anyone and they’ll say that local food is one of the great things about travelling. Whether it’s familiar western stuff, recognisable but altogether different African or South American food or altogether new and exciting Asian, it’s a global language that everyone looks to learn more of.

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Wednesday
Aug032016

Top 5 Foods Of The Frontier House 

What is your favourite dish? Mac and cheese, omelette, a Sunday roast? Now imagine trying to cook this for 35 people, in a normal sized kitchen.

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Monday
Mar212016

Cooperative Feeding in Dolphins 

Here in the Frontier Tenerife house, as on most projects, we share the cooking duties. One or two people will prepare and cook the food for everyone, and we all eat together. I guess you could call this a kind of cooperative feeding! But March is not volunteer awareness month, so let’s talk about cooperative feeding in dolphins!

Animals which appear to show a high level of intelligence, such as primates and cetaceans, also appear capable of a range of cooperative behaviours including a variety of feeding techniques.[1] Dolphins face the challenge of finding and capturing small prey in oceans, and one solution is group hunting. It requires a group to act together to the benefit of all, and only works if there is no cheating![2]  

A number of dolphin species have been observed feeding cooperatively in a variety of ways around the world, including common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus), and spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) working together to create dense patches of prey to feed on.[2, 3, 4]

One of the resident species here in Tenerife, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), is a species which displays a very catholic diet and a range of hunting techniques. In the Bahamas, they have been observed feeding cooperatively by swimming quickly in a wide line, with the end dolphins swimming faster to form a circle before diving in synchrony. This action herds fish towards the grassy sea bed where they are more easily captured.[5]

Another cool method of feeding shown by bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina and Georgia is ‘strand-feeding’ where dolphins swim quickly in unison, driving fish ahead of them onto mud banks where they simultaneously strand themselves to pick off the fish.[6] While a number of dolphin species show cooperative feeding, bottlenose dolphins also display a very unusual technique; cooperative feeding with role specialization. In other words, individual dolphins within the group have a specific role to play within the hunting event. In Florida groups of bottlenose dolphins work together to herd fish, with one animal acting as the ‘driver’, herding fish towards the ‘barrier’ dolphins. This herding causes the fish to leap into the air to try and escape… right in to the waiting mouths of the dolphins! This behaviour was observed many times, with the ‘driver’ dolphin in each group always being the same animal, therefore showing role specialization. [7]

One interesting example of cooperative feeding, is dolphins cooperating with fishermen with both humans and dolphins benefitting from improved prey capture. In southern Brazil, a small artisanal fishing community cooperatively catches mullet with bottlenose dolphins through a series of ritualized behaviours. The fishermen wait in a line while the dolphins drive the fish towards them from the deeper water. The fishermen have learned to watch for the nodding head movements of the dolphins, allowing them to cast their nets at exactly the right moment and in the perfect location, disorienting the fish and allowing the dolphins to more easily catch stray individuals. It is only a small subset of the resident population of bottlenose dolphins in this area which display this behaviour which is learned, and passed on from mother to calf.[8, 9] A similar cooperative technique occurs in Myanmar, this time with Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris), rather than bottlenose. The fishermen attract the dolphins to their canoes with noises and splashes and wait to see if the dolphins will ‘agree’ to fish with them. If so, the dolphins will drive the fish towards the fishermen by swimming in tighter and tighter circles. Catches for the fishermen were always greater during cooperative feeding than non-cooperative, and the fact that the fishery has existed for at least 130 years suggests the dolphins must do pretty well out of it too![10]

This is barely scratching the surface of another fascinating aspect of cetacean biology, and hints at intelligence and behaviours that we are yet to fully understand in these amazing animals. Just another reason to love dolphins!

By Bryony Manly - Assistant Research Officer

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.