June 21, 2024

Armed Escorts: Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) Interactions with Octopuses (Pinnoctopus cordiformis) in New Zealand


Dara N. Orbach and Theresa Kirchner


Abstract: Between October 2011 and December 2013, three interactions between dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and common New Zealand octopuses (Pinnoctopus cordiformis) were witnessed and photographed off Kaikoura, New Zealand. In two interactions, an octopus was attached to a dusky dolphin; and in a third interaction, dusky dolphins appeared to be playing with an octopus. The attachment might have been an escape tactic for the octopuses. This is the first published record of interactions between dusky dolphins and octopuses in New Zealand. The few anecdotal reports of octopuses attached to dolphins are limited to species that commonly prey on octopuses. The evidence for dusky dolphins foraging on octopuses off Kaikoura is weak. The two species have different habitats but could come into initial contact through shallow nearshore dives performed by the dusky dolphins or by other species observed in the area, including New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), or fishermen retrieving craypots. When the dusky dolphins encountered this unusual object in their environment, they may have initiated exploratory or playful behavior, which changed to distressed or defensive behavior upon the attachment of the octopuses. The erratic behaviors of the dolphins, including tail thrashes, rolling over, and rapid changes in swimming speed and direction, indicate they were disturbed by the presence of the affixed octopus. The dolphins did not perform acrobatic leaps, which are predicted to remove or reposition large “hitchhikers.”
Key Words: play behavior, object interactions, Kaikoura, New Zealand, dusky dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obscurus, common New Zealand octopus, Pinnoctopus cordiformis
Document Type: Research article
DOI: 10.1578/AM.40.3.2014.285
Page Numbers: 285-292

Info SKU: Vol__40__Iss__3__Orbach Category: