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Dolphin # 7002
Hoa'ai is a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) that Pacific Whale Foundation researchers have observed off the coast of Maui and Lanai. This dolphin's name is from the Hawaiian language; it is a word that means "a companion with whom you eat." Our researchers gave Hoa'ai this name after observing this dolphin on June 28, 2010. Hoa'ai was traveling with three other bottlenose dolphins midway between the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Lana’i, in an area known as the ‘Au’Au Channel. They were swimming fast and porpoising, but would take three to five minute "breaks" when they would dive deep below the water. We believe that Hoa'ai and the other dolphins were diving deep to feed on fish or invertebrates under the surface.
Bottlenose dolphins use echolocation to locate prey. The dolphin produces a rapid train of clicks (as many as several hundred per second) in the area just beneath its blowhole. These sounds are emitted through the dolphin's fatty forehead (which is called the melon). The sound waves clicks bounce off objects and the echoes are picked up by the dolphin's lower jaw.
The sound travels through a layer of fat to the dolphin's inner ear and forms a picture in the dolphins' brain. Combined with the dolphin's vision, which is thought to be as good as human vision, a dolphin can readily locate food in the area, and can even determine factors such as its density, speed of movement and direction. Knowing that dolphins can also swim at speeds of 40 mph, it's easy to understand why they are such efficient hunters!
It's very possible that Hoa'ai and the other dolphins at the group had identified prey and were following it -- or possibly feeding upon it -- when we observed them.
Bottlenose dolphins are part of the "toothed whale" family and are called odontocetes. Most bottlenose dolphins have 18 to 25 teeth on each side of the upper jaw and 18 to 24 teeth on each side of the lower jaw -- a total of 76 to 98 teeth. Just like humans, dolphins have one set of teeth for life.
Wild bottlenose dolphins eat a wide variety of fish and invertebrates such as squid and cuttlefish. Their sharp teeth are used for grasping prey, but not for chewing. Dolphins swallow fish whole, head first. Swallowing the fish in this way helps the dolphin avoid injury from the tail spines or fins of the fish.
Bottlenose dolphins will also work cooperatively to feed, with group members encircling their prey to catch it. They may also whack prey with their tail flukes to stun it.
Male bottlenose dolphins will also use their teeth to "rake" each other when they are fighting with one another to gain access to a sexually receptive female. The resulting scars will help us determine if a dolphin is a male, at those times when we cannot get a good view of his underside. Because Hoa'ai has significant amounts of scarring, we believe he may be a male.
Hoa'ai was originally sighted March 23, 2010. At that time, Hoa'ai was traveling with four other dolphins, and was bow-riding (swimming alongside our moving boat) in the ‘Au’Au Channel, between Maui and Lana’i.
Later sightings of Hoa’ai occurred on April 11, 2013 in a pod of five animals traveling south off the coast of southwest Lahaina and on October 20, 2013 in a pod of four animals traveling northwest off of Olowalu. This group was foraging on a bait ball of fish and were observed tail-slapping to stun their prey.
On December 4, 2013 Hoa’ai was sighted between Olowalu and Ma’alaea in a pod of an estimated amount of 15 individuals that included several calves. Hoa’ai was seen leaping.
On January 11, 2014 our Research Team sighted Hoa’ai in a pod of 10 animals milling and diving off the coast of Lanai and interacting with 3 sub-adult humpback whales.
Hoa’ai was later sighted off the coast of Lahaina with one other adult milling in the mid-channel and again on December 30, 2014 in Ma’alaea Bay in a pod of 7 other bottlenose dolphins traveling and interacting with 2 humpback whales.
We thank you for adopting Hoa’ai and for supporting the ongoing research programs and projects at Pacific Whale Foundation.