[MARMAM] New publication: Why do bottlenose dolphins carry conch shells?

Simon Allen s.allen at murdoch.edu.au
Thu Sep 2 21:22:32 PDT 2010

G¹day folks,

We¹re pleased to announce the publication (online at this stage) of the
following research note:

Allen, SJ, Bejder, L & Krützen, M 2010. Why do Indo-Pacific bottlenose
dolphins (Tursiops sp.) carry conch shells (Turbinella sp.) in Shark Bay,
Western Australia? Marine Mammal Science DOI:

Bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay exhibit a remarkable array of foraging
tactics within a single population. Those described in some detail include:
³kerplunking,² whereby dolphins scare fish out from vegetative cover with a
percussive, bubble forming tail slap in shallow waters; ³beaching,²
involving intentional stranding on beaches in the pursuit of fish; and,
³sponging,² in which dolphins use marine sponges as protective shields over
their rostra when foraging in the benthos. Here, we add a new behavior to
this extensive list referred to as ³conching.² Over the last 13 yr,
researchers in disparate locations in Shark Bay have observed individual
dolphins lifting sizeable conch shells out of the water. The conches are
lifted by the action of the dolphin¹s rostrum inserted into the shell¹s
aperture. Determining the function of this unusual behavior has been
difficult, largely due to its infrequent occurrence and the relatively
fleeting glimpses obtained when it has occurred. Functional hypotheses
include feeding on the flesh of the living conch mollusk, play behavior, and
use of the conch as a socio-sexual display item. During surveys in the
Western Gulf of Shark Bay, we obtained a photographic sequence that revealed
the function of the conch-carrying behavior.

Please drop one of us a line should you wish to peruse the PDF.

Kind regards, Simon, Lars & Michael
(s.allen at murdoch.edu.au; l.bejder at murdoch.edu.au;
michael.kruetzen at aim.uzh.ch)

Simon Allen
Research Fellow, Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit
Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Murdoch University
South St., Murdoch
Western Australia 6150

Email: S.Allen at murdoch.edu.au
Mobile: +61 (0)416 083 653
Web: http://www.cffr.murdoch.edu.au/mucru/simon_allen.html

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