An international collaboration between Massey University, Nantes Université, Department of Conservation, Nutri Lens and Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari has enhanced our understanding of the fascinating relationship between Australasian gannets and common dolphins.
Gannets and dolphins often feed together on bait balls in the Hauraki Gulf. Researchers found that this feeding association is possibly due to a moderate niche overlap between the two species. With competition reduced, this interaction may help both species detect and capture prey. This might look like dolphins herding prey closer to the surface, meaning that gannets can increase their dive heights. Coordinated attacks from all directions could increase feeding success.
It’s fantastic to have a more comprehensive understanding of this iconic relationship, especially since interactions between these apex predators are likely to influence their wider communities! In addition, we might be able to use the same approach to study other poorly understood cetacean-bird interactions in the future.
Photo: Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari