This year’s data collection for the project looking at the development of echolocation in new-born dolphin calves went off with a flying and sudden start.
Following the first day of test recordings, Piccolo brought in her a new-born calf, later named Piper, to the beach at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay. Despite multiple technical difficulties, being able to follow the near daily development of Piper’s vocalizations and echolocation abilities has been a great success.
By the third day of Piccolo and Piper visiting the beach, we had recordings of random clicks from the young calf who quickly became very independent as well as curious about his/her surroundings as well as the hydrophone array. By ten days of age, Piper was not only joining in on the antics of the older juvenile dolphins, but also showing a great interest in the acoustic array, making it easy to get recordings. And at 16 days of age, it happened: Piper approached the array and echo-located, following in the footsteps of the calf studied last year, Sonic, who was found to start echo-locating at 14 days of age.
Following the arrival of Piper, two more adult females (Kiya and Shock) of the famous Monkey Mia “beach dolphins” were expected to give birth between November and January. Unfortunately, it seems that Kiya has miscarried as she was already being herded by males and no longer looks pregnant. However, just one month after Piccolo brought in Piper, Shock showed up on the 25th of November with her new-born. Furthermore, only a few days before this, another female named Bliss, also showed up with her new-born calf. Fortunately for the project, Bliss and Shock seem to stick together, providing the opportunity to record two dolphin calves in one go!
Although neither of the calves are as independent as Piper is, both mothers are approaching the array closely with their calves, meaning there are still plenty of opportunities for good recordings. With both calves soon approaching the 14 day mark, we will hopefully have signs of echolocation soon. Stay tuned…