Dolphins are the world’s best surfers. Researchers are relatively sure that they do it because it’s fun, although “fun” is a difficult thing to prove. As it turns out, though, dolphins might have their own version of kooks. Better surfers might be higher up the social ladder in dolphin pods.
“Surfing could be part of defining social standing, play, reproductive activities, and feeding,” Dr. Liz Hawkins, a researcher at Southern Cross University told The Gold Coast Bulletin. “They can use the waves as stealth after forcing fish in close to shore.”
According to Hawkins, dolphins, like humans, also have home breaks. She studied pods seen frequently off Snapper Rocks, and believes they’re groups of feeding females who made the break their own–and there are no boys allowed. “They are localized, which means they have areas they occupy all year around,” she explained. “What we see with groups like this is that they’re nursery pods. Generally, you don’t see males coming in. They could be feeding and resting in the area.”
Dr. Hawkins has a lot of experience with dolphins. For the last 15 years, she’s been researching the ecology, biology, and conservation of coastal cetaceans in Australia, focusing on population dynamics, social systems, and health.
Although dolphins are a common sight for many surfers on the Gold Coast, Dr. Hawkins wants to see more research. So far, she’s identified around 500 individuals in the area, using the help of spotters.
“One of the main things we’re encouraging people to do is be our eyes out there – we already have some amazing dolphin watchers on the Gold Coast,” she said. “If people pull out their cameras and get clear images of their dorsal fins, we can identify them and see if we’ve come across them before.”