Elding's research team
A dolphin named 'Puzzle'!
There are over 30,000 white-beaked dolphins in and around Icelandic waters and they are resident here. This means they stay in the same areas all year long. But there are still many open questions about them, like how big are these areas they are residing in, do they always stay in the same pod, are there differences between the white-beaked dolphins we have in the North of Iceland in comparison to the ones we have in Faxaflói, the Southwest of Iceland.
To answer any of these questions it of course needs many years of observation and analyses. With the photos taken during our whale watching tours we can see so many things. Not just the identification of single individuals is possible, but we can see if there are certain times of the year we see them more often, if there are preferred areas we encounter them and also if there are dolphins that always or often occur with the same dolphins in their company.
That is what we are looking at currently. Although we are still processing our data collected in 2019, we already have some interesting findings. One of our constantly sighted dolphins we have named Puzzle, as the top of his dorsal fin looks as if a puzzle piece is missing out of it, seems to have become friends with a dolphin we call Only Gabriela. Just from March to July 2019 we have seen the two together nine times.
White-beaked dolphins are extremely social and will always be in a pod, which is simply a group, which is like a family. But these pods are not fixed in their individuals and especially Puzzle seems to be dynamically moving between pods. This is a smart strategy to keep the genetic variability as large as possible, increasing fitness as well. How much movement happens in between pods and pod size also vary greatly with food availability and time of the year.
It will be exciting to analyse the rest of the year and past years to understand these dolphins better, a task we are looking forward to in our research team!
Article by head research coordinator Sabrina Voswinkel