[MARMAM] New publication: A common bottlenose dolphin prey handling technique for marine catfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Errol Ronje eronje at gmail.com
Thu Jul 13 11:12:55 PDT 2017

Dear colleagues,

Please find our new publication entitled: A common bottlenose dolphin
truncatus*) prey handling technique for marine catfish (Ariidae) in the
northern Gulf of Mexico.  Ronje EI, Barry KP, Sinclair C, Grace MA, Barros
N, Allen J, Balmer B, Panike A, Toms C, Mullin KD, Wells RS (2017) PLoS ONE
12(7): e0181179.

Abstract: Few accounts describe predator-prey interactions between common
bottlenose dolphins (*Tursiops truncatus* Montagu 1821) and marine
catfish (*Ariopsis
felis* Linnaeus 1766, *Bagre marinus* Mitchill 1815). Over the course of
50,167 sightings of bottlenose dolphin groups in Mississippi Sound and
along the Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico, severed catfish heads were
found floating and exhibiting movements at the surface in close proximity
to 13 dolphin groups that demonstrated feeding behavior. These observations
prompted a multi-disciplinary approach to study the predator-prey
relationship between bottlenose dolphins and marine catfish. A review was
conducted of bottlenose dolphin visual survey data and dorsal fin
photographs from sightings where severed catfish heads were observed.
Recovered severed catfish heads were preserved and studied, whole marine
catfish were collected and examined, and stranding network pathology
reports were reviewed for references to injuries related to fish spines.
Photographic identification analysis confirms eight dolphins associated
with severed catfish heads were present in three such sightings across an
approximately 350 km expanse of coast between the Mississippi Sound and
Saint Joseph Bay, FL. An examination of the severed catfish heads indicated
interaction with dolphins, and fresh-caught whole hardhead catfish (*A*.
*felis*) were examined to estimate the presumed total length of the catfish
before decapitation. Thirty-eight instances of significant trauma or death
in dolphins attributed to ingesting whole marine catfish were documented in
stranding records collected from the southeastern United States of America.
Bottlenose dolphins typically adhere to a ram-feeding strategy for prey
capture followed by whole prey ingestion; however, marine catfish skull
morphology may pose a consumption hazard due to rigid spines that can
puncture and migrate through soft tissue, prompting a prey handling
technique for certain dolphins, facilitating consumption of the posterior
portion of the fish without the head.

The paper is open access and available for download here:

If unable to download, please make a request for copies to:
errol.ronje at noaa.gov


Errol Ronje
Fisheries Biologist
IAP World Services Contractor
NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC - Mississippi Labs
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