Scientists stuck cameras on dolphins and captured never-before-seen footage

If you’ve wondered how dolphins eat, you’re not alone. This month, a new study published in OLP aims to understand exactly that. And to do that, the study’s lead author, Sam Ridgway, attached cameras to six Navy-trained dolphins and released them. The images captured by Ridgway and his team clearly show how dolphins hunt and even how they eat their prey.

Dolphins are intelligent creatures, even going so far as to teach other dolphins tricks. But, when it came to feeding and hunting, they remained a mystery. Now we finally have answers. Although they are not as clear as some might hope.

Scientists previously thought that the way dolphins ate and hunted could take two different forms. First, they swim faster than their prey, grab it in their jaws, and then eat or swallow their prey. These two feeding methods are called ram feeding and vacuum feeding. However, Ridgway’s new study may finally shed some light on which method the dolphins actually rely on.

Ridgway and the other researchers attached cameras to six Navy-trained dolphins to learn more about how the dolphins hunt and eat. Now I don’t know why the marine part is there, as it doesn’t seem to play any part in the actual purpose of the study, but maybe it was easier than trying to find six dolphins in the wild. Anyway, it happened, and there are pictures, and it’s honestly a little terrifying.

A: One of the dolphins with a camera attached to its body. B: The same dolphin crashes to the bottom of the sea to catch a fish. C: The dolphin pushes the fish out of its mouth by spreading its teeth. Image sources: Ridgway et al/PLOS

I have included one of the three videos posted by the researchers in the study above. In it, you can see a dolphin as it chases and catches a fish in San Diego Bay. The researchers say this became evident each time the dolphin identified its next target. When he did, he would pick up speed and his heart rate would also increase. The result is a terrifying look at how dolphins hunt.

For the most part, the dolphins participated in suction feeding, the study reveals. Additionally, the footage also showed dolphins eating snakes, which we had never seen before. It’s unclear exactly why he chose a snake over another tasty fish in the water.

The Marin Mammal Program, which is responsible for training these dolphins, has spent decades studying and observing these ocean creatures. This, however, is the first time we’ve gotten a closer look at how dolphins hunt. Hopefully the researchers were able to learn everything they needed to know.

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