How Spinner Dolphins “Dance”

Kelly Benoit-Bird, a biological oceanographer from Oregon State University, is one of 23 people chosen as 2010 MacArthur Fellows, which are more popularly known as “Genius Awards.”

This video animation is part of her fascinating research on spinner dolphins, which documented for the first time how these animals use teamwork to feed more successfully.

Dolphin positions recorded from a multibeam sonar observation of a foraging dolphin group. This animation is a composite of three observations overlapping in foraging stage to permit a visualization of a complete foraging bout. Each frame is the composite of six successive sonar echoes, providing higher resolution and three- dimensional information while minimizing noise in the data. The strong air cavity echo from each dolphin is represented by the dots. The travel of the vessel has been removed and the data is shown at 8 times real time. Dr. Benoit-Bird’s innovative use of acoustics were critical in visualizing how the dolphins move in a highly choreographed fashion that allows them to encircle their prey and take turns feeding.

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