Researchers have captured the first footage from the perspective of dolphins as the mammals hunt off the coast of North America.
The US Navy attached video cameras to several dolphins trained to help spot sea mines and protect part of the US nuclear arsenal, then allowed them to hunt freely in San Diego Bay.
The intelligent marine mammals did not disappoint, providing spectacular footage as they hunted down even venomous sea snakes, much to the amazement of the researchers.
The cameras were attached to six bottlenose dolphins
Although they are such well-known and loved animals, there are still many basic things to learn about dolphins, such as how they feed. Scientists know at least two techniques: prey sipping and prey suffocation. However, new images have revealed new details.
The cameras, attached to six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) in the US, recorded six months of video and audio, so we now have new clues about the hunting and communication strategies of these mammals.
The equipment was attached to the back or side of the body, and some angles with the dolphins’ eyes and mouths are downright terrifying.
The camera dolphins caught over 200 fish
Although not wild, these dolphins are regularly given opportunities to hunt in the ocean in addition to their usual diet of frozen fish. So these dolphins most likely use similar methods to their wild counterparts, explained Sam Ridgway and his colleagues.
Their study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The camera dolphins caught over 200 fish, including perch and halibut. Some fish even threw themselves into the air in desperation trying to escape the skilled predators. But the dolphins followed their every move, swimming upside down to see more clearly, a technique previously seen in wild dolphins.
They used both sight and hearing to find prey
“These dolphins appear to have used both sight and hearing to locate prey. From a distance, dolphins always use echolocation. But up close, vision and echolocation appear to have been used concurrently,” Ridgway added, appropriately Science Alert.
The cameras also recorded the sounds of the animals’ heartbeats and revealed that instead of knocking down their victims, the dolphins used suction to choke their prey with their incredibly powerful neck muscles.
Although dolphins have previously been spotted “playing” with snakes, including an anaconda, the footage confirmed for the first time that dolphins can also eat reptiles. A dolphin ate eight highly venomous snakes of the species Hydrophis platurus.