Monday, November 1, 2010

New BBC film shows dolphins teaching younger animals how to hunt for the first time


Newborn dolphin Samu with mother Puck in scenes following the early days of a newborn dolphin's life in a BBC documentary

Extraordinary scenes of the early days of a newborn dolphin's life have been caught on camera for the first time - including an apparent fishing lesson and a gathering of females to see the proud mum and baby.

The footage in a BBC2 documentary on Wednesday also shows a young female's attempt to kidnap the baby bottlenose dolphin, various hunting techniques employed by the mammals and a shark attack.

The makers of The Dolphins of Shark Bay used miniature cameras to capture the first hours of a calf's life and previously unseen sights that point to the animals' intelligence and complex relationships.

Scientists studying the dolphins off the coast of Australia are now planning to investigate further.

The film follows Puck and her eighth calf Samu, two of the bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, western Australia, which is the foremost site for research into the mammals.

Puck leads a group of dolphins nicknamed 'the Beachies' because of their hunting technique of driving fish across the shallows towards the shore.

Georgetown University professor Janet Mann, who leads the research into dolphins in the bay, said: 'I have followed Puck through her every pregnancy and birth over the last 20 years and we probably know more about Puck than any other wild dolphin.

The camera crew caught the baby dolphin being taught how to hunt

The Dolphins of Shark Bay documentary is the first TV programme to capture dolphins teaching life skills to younger animals

'The film not only lets others share the intricacies of dolphin social life, but also their prowess in hunting and other proofs of their extraordinary intelligence.

'For instance, in Shark Bay, we have the only dolphins in the world that use tools - marine sponges to protect their beaks while hunting along the seafloor.'

The documentary includes footage of an unusual gathering of unrelated females meeting baby Samu at a 'greet-the-newborn' social event and his family of dolphins working together to protect the youngster from a shark.

The film crew also captured footage of what appears to be an older calf giving the infant a lesson in how to fish.

Professor Janet Mann watching newborn dolphin Samu with mother Puck

Prof Mann said: 'Given the complexity of their hunting, we have long hoped to see behaviour that looks like 'teaching'.

'It is very hard to capture such rare events but the film shows Samu apparently being taught how to catch smaller fish by an older calf (Samu's niece) right at the time he was trying out his hunting skills and clearly needed help.'

Nick Stringer, director of the Big Wave Productions documentary for the BBC's Natural World series, said the film provided a 'rare window into the lives of these extraordinary creatures'.

'I'd never have guessed how intimate or complex their relationships are, nor how smart they are.

'There really is a very bright mind in the water, and I really hope we've captured a sense of this for viewers.'

source: dailymail

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