19.09.2019 – Beaked breacher
A frequent question that pops up during our tours is; why do dolphins actually leap? Being the talkative person that I am, I already answered this question with a full explanation to my lovely guests on board the Ribeira Brava but, for all those who weren’t around, here’s a little insight.
First of all it depends on the type of leap. Most oceanic dolphin species and porpoises jump in an arrow-like manner when they travel and often do so in absolute unison. Air has much less drag than water, allowing the dolphins to travel swiftly and always take regular breaths of air as they do. Dolphins also perform localised jumps and these too vary in both. their style and intentions. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) often jump high into the air when they are socialising and most other dolphin species often jump above their prey to intimidate it whilst hunting. Dolphins also leap to scan their environment at the surface. If the dolphins twist or turn in the air as they jump, it is regarded as a so-called breach and scientists believe the breaching is linked to quick communication amongst individuals, play during socialising and the removal of parasites.
So jumping is really a thing amongst dolphins but has also been observed with several other toothed and baleen whales. Bottlenose dolphins, like the ones we saw today, are generally regarded as one of the most surface-active cetaceans, managing leaps as high as 5m! So leaps and breaches can be expected during a sighting with these intelligent and dynamic creatures…but today was not an acrobatic day for the Bottlenose. Instead we witnessed a breach from the most unexpected cetacean; a Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)!
While beaked whales do breach, such behaviour is typically anticipated with Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) or Sowerby’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens) and we have to this day not seen a similar behaviour with any Blainville’s here in Madeira! What a fantastic surprise for our crew and guests!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
09:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales
09:00 Bottlenose dolphins
15:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Sperm whales