Complex prey handling of octopus by bottlenose dolphins

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We are pleased to announce the following publication in Marine Mammal Science:

Complex prey handling of octopus by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

Authors: Kate R. Sprogis, Holly C. Raudino (nee Smith), David Hocking and Lars Bejder.

Full citation:
Sprogis, K.R., Raudino, H.C., Hocking, D, and Bejder, L. (2017). Complex prey handling of octopus by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). Marine Mammal Science. doi: 10.1111/mms.12405

Summary:
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were observed handling octopus on 45 occasions in southwest Australia from 2007 to 2013. We suggest that dolphins shake octopus onto the water’s surface and toss octopus several meters into the air multiple times to i) remove the octopus head/mantle, ii) tenderise and ensure the arms are inactive and iii) break the octopus into smaller pieces for easier consumption. We documented that octopus handling:

  • was a seasonal occurrence, peaking during winter/spring in water temperatures ~18°C,
  • occurred in relatively turbid (~3m) and shallow (~9m) waters,
  • occurred primarily over benthic habitat consisting of sand, algae/sand and mud/silt,
  • occurred in group sizes of ~10 dolphins,
  • was most prevalent among adult females and,
  • was conducted by dolphins that showed a close association with other dolphins handling octopus.

Download the paper:
To read more the article is available from Marine Mammal Science, or alternatively, if you are unable to download the article please email Kate for a pdf, or request a copy through Research Gate.

A sequence of an octopus handling event by an adult male bottlenose dolphin off Bunbury, Western Australia. This event lasted for approximately 5 min, with 12 octopus shakes and/or tosses observed. Each row (a–f) represents consecutive actions, displaying examples of the different types of handling methods: shaking (d) and tossing (a, b, c, e, f).

A sequence of an octopus handling event by an adult male bottlenose dolphin, named “Quicksilver”, off Bunbury, Western Australia. This event lasted for approximately 5 min, with 12 octopus shakes and/or tosses observed. Each row (a–f) represents consecutive actions, displaying examples of the different types of handling methods: shaking (d) and tossing (a, b, c, e, f).

Locations of octopus handling events (black circles) by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off Bunbury and Busselton, Western Australia, over benthic habitat consisting of sand, algae/sand and mud/silt and seagrass.

Locations of octopus handling events (black circles) by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off Bunbury and Busselton, Western Australia. Events occurred in relatively shallow water (~9m) and primarily over benthic habitat consisting of sand, algae/sand and mud/silt and seagrass.

South West Marine Research Program publications:
• Smith, H.C., and Sprogis, K.R. (2016). Seasonal feeding on giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in south-western Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO15075
• McCluskey, S.M., Bejder, L., and Loneragan, N.R. (2016). Assessing potential dolphin prey availability and calorific value in an estuarine and coastal environment. Frontiers in Marine Science. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00030
• Sprogis, K.R., Pollock, K.H., Raudino, H.C., Allen, S.J., Kopps, A.M., Manlik, O., Tyne, J.A., and Bejder, L. (2016a). Sex-specific patterns in abundance, temporary emigration and survival of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in coastal and estuarine waters. Frontiers in Marine Science 3. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00012
• Sprogis, K.R., Raudino, H.C., Rankin, R., MacLeod, C.D., and Bejder, L. (2016). Home range size of adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in a coastal and estuarine system is habitat and sex-specific. Marine Mammal Science 32, 287-308. doi: 10.1111/mms.12260
• Smith, H.C., Frère, C., Kobryn, H., and Bejder, L. (2016). Dolphin sociality, distribution and calving as important behavioural patterns informing management. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12263
• Smith H.C., Pollock, K., Waples, K., Bradley, S., and Bejder, L. (2013). Use of the robust design to estimate seasonal abundance and demographic parameters of a coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population. PLoS ONE 8, e76574. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076574

Acknowledgements:
Thank you to S. Leporati and F. Briceño for discussions on octopus and assistance in species identification. We thank our research assistants for help in the field and with data processing, and to our colleagues S. McCluskey, M. Cannon, D. Chabanne, V. Buchanan, and K. Nicholson. Thank you to S. Allen, J. Symons, D. Harvey, and F. Harvey for off-survey effort octopus handling records.

Project Funding:
We thank the funding partners for financial support from the South West Marine Research Program; Bemax Cable Sands, BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina Ltd, the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Bunbury Port Authority, City of Bunbury, Cristal Mining, the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, Iluka, Millard Marine, Naturaliste Charters, Newmont Boddington Gold, South West Development Commission and WA Plantation Resources. All research was approved and permitted through the Department of Parks and Wildlife (SF005811, SF007986, SF008624) and Murdoch University’s Animal Ethics Committee (W2009/06, W2342/10).

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