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Australian Humpback dolphin ventures on land to eat

By Karen Graham     Oct 26, 2014 in Science
Only a few months ago was it revealed that the Australian humpback dolphin was now listed as a new species. Scientists have been studying these creatures for years, but it is just recently that they have found out just how truly unique they really are.
Humpback dolphins of the genus Sousa have been separated into three species for hundreds of years. One species swam on the west coast of Africa. The second species seemed to be confined to the east coast and waters of the Middle East and India. The third group was widespread, from the northwest coast of India and on to the coastal waters of Asia and into northern Australia.
The third group was studied extensively for years, and this led to the discovery of the fourth species, the Australian humpback dolphin. After 17 years, using skulls, teeth and DNA, a pair of researchers was able to definitely say the dolphins off the coast of Australia were a fourth species.
A team of researchers from Australia's Southern Cross University has been tracking a pod of Australian humpback dolphins for some time now. They were following the pod up the Fitzroy River, near Central Queensland in September, when they heard splashing in the distance. When they got closer, they discovered the dolphins were engaged in "strand-feeding."
"The humpback dolphins were observed swimming a few meters away from and parallel to the shoreline. This behavior probably allows dolphins to concentrate fish against the mud bank before charging at them at high speed," researcher Daniele Cagnazzi described to Business Insider Australia.
The Capricorn Cetaceans Research Team, led by Daniele Cagnazzi, a research fellow with the University’s Marine Ecology Research Centre, had seen this feeding behavior one time before in the three years they had been following the group.
Strand-feeding is not unique to the humpback dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins and killer whales also use the technique. It can be very effective in getting dinner, but it is also quite dangerous to the dolphins and orcas. "While this technique may seem effective, it can also be dangerous for these marine animals, which can put themselves at risk of stranding completely out of the water, says biologist Todd Pusser, according to Nature World News.
More about strand feeding, Australian Humpback dolphins, New species, Threatened species, habitat degradation
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