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As extremely intelligent and highly social animals, inshore bottlenose dolphins live in complex societies and we frequently observe many fascinating behaviours. Being completely wild, the dolphins at Tangalooma continue to display these behaviours at the feed each and every night, giving us an amazing opportunity to observe these incredible animals in their natural environment. Some of the behaviours they display are known as fish play, inverted hunting, logging, chuffing, tail slapping, suckling and spyhopping.

Fish Play: Being inquisitive and playful, it's a common sight to see many of our younger dolphins playfully tossing fish in the air before, during and after the feed. Often they will catch a small species of pufferfish, prone to inflating with gas when a little bit stressed. After puffing up, the dolphins will even hit the little fish to one another, just like a ping pong ball! Not only is this fun for the younger dolphins, but allows them to sharpen their own hunting skills which will become vitally important once they reach maturity.

Hunting: Here at the Dolphin Feeding Program we are very careful to only feed the dolphins a small amount of their daily food requirement, so you will frequently see them chasing and catching their own fish. If you're really lucky, you just might see one of the more accomplished hunters of the group catch a more exotic late-night snack, like this Octopus Shadow managed to find lurking underneath the jetty!

Inverted Hutning: Often we see the dolphins scooting about upside down with their bellies exposed to the surface. Exhibiting a very finely honed hunting technique called inversion, this enables them to catch prey that is sitting very close to the surface of the water. As the bones in a dolphins neck are fused, they have limited flexibility and cannot actually look above them, requiring them to simply flip upside down to hunt their prey.

Logging: When the water is calm and the feed is yet to begin, look out for the dolphins having a bit of a catnap, gently lolling just below the surface. Because each breath they take is a conscious decision, they cannot go to sleep like you and I are used to. Instead, they shut half of their brain down at a time, allowing one half to rest while the other takes care of breathing and looking out for predators.

Spyhopping: The lens in the dolphin's eye can focus equally well both above and below water, so by vertically lifting their heads above the surface, they can get a clear view of the world above them. This behaviour, known as spyhopping, is commonly exhibited by many species of whale and dolphin worldwide, and is thought to help the dolphins locate prey, threats or possibly even landmarks.

Chuffing: Coming to the surface to breathe quite frequently, often the dolphins will expel the air from their lungs quite forcefully, making a loud puffing sound. Like tail-slapping, it is thought that chuffing may be a sign of frustration or annoyance.

Tail Slapping: As the dolphin swims along, he or she will lift their tail right out of the water, slapping it back down again very forcefully against the surface. Making a loud slapping sound, this behaviour is sometimes regarded as a sign of frustration or annoyance.

Suckling: With our two most recent arrivals, Phoenix (1 year old) and Zephyr (11 months), we will often observe them suckling milk from their mothers, Tinkerbell and Shadow. Watch closely during the feed, and you will see the calves assume the 'nursing' position, swimming right underneath their mums' bellies as she releases the milk. Phoenix and Zephyr will suckle for a good 18 months before they begin to take more solid food.
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