If two animals share the same environment, then at some point they are likely to meet. In the wild these meetings are often between predator and prey; however, nature isn’t always so cruel. Some such encounters, referred to as “interspecies interactions,” can be playful or social, where neither individual is threatened.
The research team was recently lucky enough to observe two such interactions while surveying humpback whales off the leeward coast of Maui. The first was between pantropical spotted dolphins and humpback whales and the second between bottlenose dolphins and two humpback whales. Humpback whales and dolphins are more often observed in pods consisting of their own species; however interspecies interactions have been documented before. One notable example was in 2010 when researchers Deakos et al. observed bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales engaging in a “lift and slide” type of game off the coast of Kauai; which was such a significant behavior that their findings were later published as a scientific paper.
In the video captured by the research team, one of the two humpback whales is observed swimming with a group of bottlenose dolphins. Some explanations for this behavior could be:
- Dolphins hunting fish that associate with the whale
- Dolphins riding the pressure wave created by the whale swimming, similar to bow-riding
- Dolphins bullying the whale
- Play behavior, such as the whale attempting to coax a dolphin onto its head for another game of “lift and slide the dolphin”
The PWF Research Team is excited to be able to share this special encounter with you.
Deakos, Mark H., et al. “Two unusual interactions between a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hawaiian waters.” Aquatic Mammals 36.2 (2010): 121-128.