(Sousa sahulensis) in the Fitzroy River estuary. Image: Southern Cross University
A rare and elusive Australian dolphin species which sometimes beaches itself to feed has been captured on camera for the first time.
Southern Cross University scientists recorded the unusual behaviour by a pod of near-threatened Australian humpback dolphins(Sousa sahulensis) in the Fitzroy River estuary of central Queensland in July.
Here’s the clip:
It is the second time in three years that the Capricorn Cetaceans Research Team, led by Daniele
Cagnazzi, a research fellow with the University’s Marine Ecology Research Centre, has observed the stranding behaviour in Australian humpback dolphins.
Dr Cagnazzi said large splashes in the distance attracted the team’s attention.
“We soon realised we were witnessing an incredible event,” Dr Cagnazzi says.
“The humpback dolphins were observed swimming a few metres away from and parallel to the shoreline.
“This behaviour probably allows dolphins to concentrate fish against the mud bank before charging at them at high speed.
“On some occasions the fish were washed onto the shoreline by the wave of water associated with the dolphin’s beaching, resulting in a full body exposed beaching.
“On other occasions the stranding was only partial with more than half of their body exposed.
“In these shallow waters the agility of the dolphin’s neck region enabled them to reach for the
stranded fish before sliding back into the deeper water, thanks to the soft mud.”
The fish being rounded up were sea mullet (Mugil cephalus).
The Fitzroy River, one of the largest rivers in Australia, is a tide-dominated estuary in the dry tropics of central Queensland.
Prior to this, the only other written report of beach hunting behaviour in Australian humpback
dolphins was in 2007 near Cape Van Diemen in the Northern Territory.
In this event humpback dolphins were observed pushing fish onto exposed sand banks at low tide and surging partially onto the banks to catch them.
However no photographic or video evidence was collected.