Hurricane Irma Vs. Florida Keys Dolphins

This image of Hurricane Irma’s projected track from the National Hurricane Center puts a bullseye on the Florida Keys. It may change course, but it is making me wonder what the various dolphin facilities in the Keys that keep dolphins in lagoons will do to protect their dolphins (Dolphin Research Center and Dolphin Connection, Theater Of The Sea, and Dolphins Plus).

The Florida Keys are now under an evacuation order. Leaving the dolphins in their net pens has risks (if the pens get torn up they can tangle up the dolphins and drown them). So does letting them out into open water, which is the preferred protocol, and the dolphins usually show up again looking to be fed. During Hurricane Andrew, DRC opened the gates. One dolphin, Anessa, chose never to return.

Of course, Miami Seaquarium, and Lolita, are also at risk. During Andrew a wall of water washed through the facility.

Especially dangerous times for captive marine mammals in Irma’s path of destruction.



Dolphins Are Really Smart

Thanks for the update. Is this research really telling us anything we don’t already know?

A dog may be man’s best friend, but dolphins can imitate human actions, and even how they solve problems.

When a dolphin has one of its senses blocked, it can use other senses to mimic a human’s movements, according to a recent study.

A bottlenose dolphin named Tanner was blindfolded and instructed to copy the actions of a trainer in the water with him. When Tanner wasn’t able to use sight to figure out the movement, he switched to another technique: He would emit sounds, listen to the echo and interpret the resulting sound waves. This process — known as echolocation — allowed Tanner to mimic movements by the trainer, such as spinning in the water.

The study, conducted at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, expands on earlier studies looking at how dolphins are able to imitate other dolphins while blindfolded. To see whether a change in sound would affect their imitation, researchers used humans instead of dolphins to make the movements in the water.

Kelly Jaakkola, research director of the marine mammal center, said researchers were surprised by Tanner’s use of echolocation.

“He outsmarted us,” Jaakkola said.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything less surprising, and this conclusion tells us little beyond what Lou Herman and his researchers already demonstrated many years ago.

I am not a fan of any captive research. But if it exists, it would be nice if it at least had to achieve some minimal threshold of utility–for the species being held captive. Not sure how humans impressing themselves over and over again with how smart and creative dolphins are is not redundant, or how it extends at this point beyond idle curiosity.

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