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Have you ever had the experience of seeing a face that you'll never forget?
For Pacific Whale Foundation's Odontocete Research Team, the bottlenose dolphin that we named Laulauna has a dorsal fin that they'll never forget.
Researchers identify individual dolphins not by their faces, but by their dorsal fins. If you look closely at the photo of Laulauna on your enclosed adoption certificate, you'll see that this dolphin's dorsal fin is very distinctive. Two prominent white slashes almost intersect, right at the point in the fin where there is a deep notch. Talk about being unforgettable!
The marks on Laulauna are likely the result of interactions with other dolphins or cetaceans, predators and the environment. Most dolphins accumulate such marks during their lifetime. Male dolphins typically have more scarring than females. The amount of scarring on Laulauna's fin has caused our researchers to suspect that Laulauna is a male.
As a result of Laulauna's clear markings, Pacific Whale Foundation's researchers were easily able to identify this dolphin on repeated occasions. Our research team reported five different sightings of Laulauna in a period of six months! These frequent resights are valuable in helping our researchers understand the movements and behaviors of the wild bottlenose dolphins that live in the ocean waters of Maui County, a region that encompasses the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
Because this dolphin was often friendly towards our vessel, our researchers named it Laulau na, which means "friendly and gregarious" in Hawaiian.
It is very common to see bottlenose dolphins in groups, or pods. Studies have found that the dolphins within a pod are generally not closely related. The pod composition fluctuates, as dolphins move into and out of the pod. A dolphin may associate with one pod one day, and be found in another pod the next day.
Some dolphin relationships are long lasting. Mothers and calves will remain together for three to six years. Some male adults will form long-term pair bonds that can endure for a lifetime!
Our first recorded sighting of Laulauna took place on February 26th, 2010 at 10:11 a.m. At that time, Laulauna was traveling with two adult bottlenose dolphins and a juvenile (a dolphin that had not yet reached sexual maturity).
We didn't seem Laulauna again until June 15, 2010. At that time, Laulauna was traveling with 6 or 7 other dolphins. The dolphins were bow riding, rolling around lazily and even doing head stands. Most of the time they were in pairs.
On June 28, 2010, we had the opportunity to observe Laulauna again. This time, Laulana was traveling with three other bottlenose dolphins. This sightings was interesting because the group was energetic at the surface (swimming fast and porpoising), but would then dive down deep into the water for three to five minutes. We presumed that they were feeding under the water. Bottlenose dolphins will feed on a variety of prey items including invertebrates and fish, and are known to forage individually and cooperatively.
July 1, 2010 brought a sighting of Laulauna bowriding on our vessel. And on July 19, 2010, we saw Laulauna again, bowriding and in the company of six other dolphins. Laulauna was clearly the friendliest toward our boat and the least elusive of these six animals. Perhaps this dolphin has gotten to know us over time, just as we have had the chance to get to know it.