Ingenious fishing method may be spreading through dolphins August 24, 2011 Researchers from Murdoch University believe a recently documented method of fishing may be spreading throughout a population of dolphins. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay were photographed engaging in ‘conching’ in 2007 and 2009. The dolphins would trap small fish in large conch shells with their rostrums (beaks), then bring the shells to the surface and shake them, causing the water to drain out and the fish to fall into their mouths. Murdoch Cetacean Research Unit Researcher Simon Allen says this previously rarely witnessed phenomenon might be on the increase, suggesting that the technique is spreading. “In the last four months alone, the research team have seen and photographed the behaviour no less than six times, possibly even seven. “If – and that is a big if – we are witnessing the horizontal spread of this behaviour, then I would assume that it spreads by an associate of a ‘conching’ dolphin closely observing the behaviour and then imitating it,” Mr Allen said. “It is a tantalising possibility that this behaviour could spread before our very eyes – over a field season or two – and that we could track that spread.” The prospect of observing a learned behaviour spreading through a population over a short period of time is exciting in itself, but the behaviour also raises new questions about how exactly dolphins engage in conching. “As yet, we don’t know if dolphins simply pursue fish into the ‘refuge’ of the large, empty conch/bailer shells or whether they actually manipulate the shells prior – perhaps turning them over so that the opening is facing up in order to make them ‘appealing’ to fish as a place to hide from the jaws of death,” Mr Allen said. “If we were to set up a few shells – opening down – in a known location and either witness dolphins turning them over, see evidence of them having been turned over when we weren’t around, or better still get some video footage of dolphins manipulating them in some way, then that would be priceless, since that implies forward planning on the dolphins’ part. “I wouldn’t be too surprised to find such cunning and devilish ploys being adopted by Shark Bay’s bottlenose dolphins.” Until such observations are recorded though, Mr Allen says it is too early to rush to any conclusions. Members of the Murdoch Cetacean Unit, with colleagues from the University of Zurich, spend roughly four months of the year studying western Shark Bay’s dolphin population in the field. The Unit operates with the assistance of a partnership with Shark Bay Resources, who provide accommodation, office space and mess facilities for the research teams. To read more about whale and dolphin research at Murdoch University, please visit: www.mucru.org Print This Post Media contact: Jo Manning Tel: (08) 9360 2474 | Mobile: 0408 201 309 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Categories: General, Research, Animal and plant studies, environment and bioinformatics, School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Research Tags: University of Zurich, cetacean research unit, conching, dolphin, shark bay, simon allen Comments (4 responses) Australia: los delfines de la Bahía Shark usan caracolas como herramienta para obtener peces | Natural News August 30, 2011 […] a la superficie con éstas en el hocico, las sacuden para drenar el agua y reciben el preciado pez. Simon Allen, de la unidad de investigación de cetáceos de la Universidad, explica que hasta el momento, él y sus colegas no saben si los delfines persiguen a los peces, […] Dolphin Fish-Eating Trick Catches On » WeNewsIt September 1, 2011 […] of the tool, described in a Murdoch University press release, is called "conching." Dolphins first trap small fish in large conch shells with their […] » Dolphin Fish-Eating Trick Catches On » ANIMALS WORLD ANIMALS WORLD September 14, 2011 […] of a tool, described in a Murdoch University press release, is called "conching." Dolphins initial trap tiny fish in vast conch shells with their […] Dolphins Catch Fish with Shells | Care2 Healthy Living September 24, 2011 […] humans aren't the only animals to use tools, Australian researchers documented bottlenose dolphins using conch shells to capture fish. Once the conchs contained small fish, the dolphins swam with them to the water's surface, […] Leave a comment Name (required) Mail (will not be published) (required) Website You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published. Thanks for commenting!