A Blue View: Studying Dolphin Behaviors
Published May 22, 2013
A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.
From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.
Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.
May 22, 2013: Studying Dolphin Behaviors
Click here to listen to marine mammal researcher
Cynthia Turner describe using enrichment as a research tool
Dolphins are highly intelligent, social, playful animals. As we work to understand these amazing creatures, research is an essential part of our mission at the Aquarium. Our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are participating in a study consisting of enrichment trials in an effort to understand more about dolphin behaviors, namely, emitting large bubble spheres from their blowholes.
Enrichment provides opportunities to animals to become engaged in something that will hopefully be fulfilling for them. In the bubble sphere enrichment study, staff put together 10 different types of novel enrichment that the dolphins had not previously experienced. Each enrichment is presented to the dolphins in front of the glass four days in a row, and a video records the dolphins and the bubble spheres that are generated. Independent reviewers will look at the tapes and count the bubbles to see if there is a correlation to the number of bubble spheres and exposure to the enrichment.
The Chimp Parade has been one of the favorites so far. The hamster, chimp, and duck are robotic, and they all move when activated. The stars on the chimp’s springy headband have flashing LEDs, and there is a similar star on the back of the duck’s wagon. The vertical object behind the chimp with the silver pipe cleaners on the end and purple, green, and red ribbons is actually a large spring that sways when the skateboard moves.
Another enrichment exercise involves bubble wrap being popped against the glass of our exhibit. Watch Beau and Foster respond to the bubble wrap by emitting bubble spheres.