Learned Behaviors

Some species, such as humpbacks, orcas, and bottlenose dolphins have devised hunting schemes that are taught to juveniles and others in their pods. The best known is bubble net feeding used by some populations of humpback and Bryde’s whales. A small pod of whales will form a circle, one or two will blow bubbles into the water trapping a school of baitfish inside this bubble curtain, and then one whale will signal the others to surge through the school of fish with mouths open to trap the fish.

Caption: Humpback whales bubble net feeding. Photo Credit: John Durbin.
Click on image to enlarge.

Dolphins that live near Kiawah and Seabrook Islands in South Carolina have learned how to work together to force fish onto the muddy banks of the inlet and then swim up on the shore to grab the fish. They then have to wiggle themselves back into the water.

Orcas that live in polar seas work in teams to create waves to wash seals off of ice floes or to split up the ice so the seals will fall off.

Pitman whale and seal
Caption: Pitman whale and seal. Photo Credit: RL Pitman, SWFSC/NOAA.

Sadly, there are times when some individuals will enter a habitat to find food and while they are feeding the water level will change as the tide goes out. This lower water level may change access to the outlet of that habitat and may also change the acoustic surroundings. Animals that try to echolocate in these shallow areas get confused and can’t find the way out. This has led to strandings and deaths.