31 May 2018

Trawler in a pink sea

This midwater pair trawler photographed at 5:30 AM looks almost unreal.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

29 May 2018

Dolphins before sunrise

We woke up at 3AM this morning, and went 12 nautical miles offshore to be with dolphins and trawlers before sunrise.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

28 May 2018

First calves

Today we observed the first calves of the year: three newborns and one small calf, swimming with their respective mothers.

Note: the two photos on top portray the same mother-newborn pair.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

Wary eye

A young adult bottlenose dolphin looks at us with a wary eye.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

26 May 2018

Following trawlers

Bottlenose dolphins speed up as they follow the midwater net dragged by a pair of "volante" trawlers.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

25 May 2018

Marc Bekoff features our review in Psychology Today

Marc Bekoff wrote an essay about our recent review 'Whale and dolphin responses to dead conspecifics'.

Marc's essay, part of his Animal Emotions blog in Psychology Today, is available at the link below:

Our review is available at: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2018.05.003

24 May 2018

Old guy, remarkable jaw

This large, old, and still lively bottlenose dolphin has a remarkable lower jaw: long, bent and with a white tip resulting from wear.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

23 May 2018

Dismissed trawler

A decommissioned wooden trawler ("Piccola Kelly") near the port of Pila, Italy.

(Photos by G. Bearzi, Northern Adriatic Sea)

22 May 2018

Sturdy dolphin

A sturdy bottlenose dolphins comes to inspect our boat.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

21 May 2018

Sea of seagulls

Bottlenose dolphins in a sea of seagulls.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

20 May 2018

Kind of blue

In portions of our study area the sea isn't truly blue. This is how Adriatic waters look like off the Po river delta.

(Photos by G. Bearzi)

19 May 2018

Coming close

Bottlenose dolphins coming close to our inflatable and looking at us.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

18 May 2018

Bottlenose dolphins and midwater pair trawlers

A group of about 20 bottlenose dolphins foraging opportunistically in the wake of "volante" midwater pair trawlers as the net is being hauled by one of the twin trawlers.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

14 May 2018

Industrial giants

The enormous Adriatic LNG terminal towers within our dolphin research area, 6 nautical miles offshore. Navigation within 2 km of the terminal is prohibited. A second industrial giant, the dismissed thermoelectric factory of Porto Tolle, can be seen in the background (left).

(Photo by G. Bearzi)

13 May 2018

Dolphins and trawler

Bottlenose dolphins following a trawler in northern Adriatic Sea open waters.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni)

12 May 2018

Round table on fisheries policy in Rovigo, Italy

Yesterday Silvia and Giovanni made two presentations at the round table on fisheries policy organised by Prof. Cristiana Fioravanti (University of Ferrara/Rovigo). It was a unique opportunity of merging the expertise of people working on sectors encompassing law, fisheries management, geology, economics... and even cetacean science.

(Photos by G. Bearzi)

11 May 2018

Whale and dolphin responses to dead conspecifics

We just published a comprehensive review in the journal Zoology, titled 'Whale and dolphin responses to dead conspecifics'.

A preview of the manuscript (uncorrected proof) is available at:

1) Effort-weighted study of 'postmortem attentive behaviour' (PAB) in cetaceans. 
2) Dolphins (Delphinidae) accounted for 92.3% of 78 PAB records, baleen whales 1.3%. 
3) Encephalisation was an important predictor of PAB across taxa. 
4) Female PAB towards dead calves (75%) may have been rescue attempts or grieving. 
5) Male PAB was rare and possibly not caregiving.

The scientific study of death across animal taxa—comparative thanatology—investigates how animals respond behaviourally, physiologically and psychologically to dead conspecifics, and the processes behind such responses. Several species of cetaceans have been long known to care for, attend to, be aroused by, or show interest in dead or dying individuals. We investigated patterns and variation in cetacean responses to dead conspecifics across cetacean taxa based on a comprehensive literature review. We analysed 78 records reported between 1970 and 2016, involving 20 of the 88 extant cetacean species. We adopted a weighted comparative approach to take observation effort into account and found that odontocetes (toothed cetaceans) were much more likely than mysticetes (baleen whales) to attend to dead conspecifics. Dolphins (Delphinidae) had the greatest occurrence of attentive behaviour (92.3% of all records), with a weighed attendance index 18 times greater than the average of all other cetacean families. Two dolphin genera, Sousa and Tursiops, constituted 55.1% of all cetacean records (N = 43) and showed the highest incidence of attentive behaviour. Results of analyses intended to investigate the reasons behind these differences suggested that encephalisation may be an important predictor, consistent with the "social brain" hypothesis. Among attending individuals or groups of known sex (N = 28), the majority (75.0%) were adult females with dead calves or juveniles (possibly their own offspring, with exceptions), consistent with the strong mother-calf bond, or, in a few cases, with the bond between mothers and other females in the group. The remaining records (25.0%) involved males either showing sexual interest in a dead adult or subadult, or carrying a dead calf in the presence of females. Because an inanimate individual is potentially rescuable, responses to dead conspecifics—especially by females—can be explained at least in part by attempts to revive and protect, having a clear adaptive value. In some cases such responses are followed by apparently maladaptive behaviour such as the long-term carrying of, or standing by, a decomposed carcass, similar to observations of certain terrestrial mammals. Among the possible explanations for the observed cetacean behavioural responses to dead conspecifics are strong attachment resulting in a difficulty of "letting go"—possibly related to grieving—or perhaps individuals failing to recognise or accept that an offspring or companion has died. Our current understanding is challenged by small sample size, incomplete descriptions, and lack of information on the physiology and neural processes underpinning the observed behaviour. We provide research recommendations that would improve such understanding.

Dangerous logs

One of our main worries during fast navigation in search for dolphins is crashing our inflatable into one of these large logs. The risk of a collision off the Po delta is not insignificant, because branches and whole trees are carried downstream by the river and end up drifting at sea (not always as visible as the particular log shown here). Crossing this part of the Adriatic on a small speedboat requires extra attention.

(Photos by G. Bearzi, Northern Adriatic Sea)

10 May 2018

Over-confident baby sea turtle

This lovely and lively juvenile loggerhead sea turtle, encountered today, was a bit too confident with boats and humans. He had a damaged shell, possibly due to a former collision with a boat, or a bycatch event. However, he seemed to have recovered and was swimming just fine.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

09 May 2018

Trawlers in Pila

The impressively large, modern and powerful fleet of trawlers moored in the port of Pila, Italy.

(Photo G. Bearzi, Northern Adriatic Sea)

Backyard trawler

A fisher in Pila (Po river delta, Italy) built a miniature trawler in his home garden. The small boat lies there in the company of statues, a water well and a windmill.

Round table on dolphins and fisheries management in Rovigo, Italy

Adriatic beam trawling

The impressively long booms deployed by a beam trawler off Chioggia, Italy.

(Photos by S. Bonizzoni, Northern Adriatic Sea)

08 May 2018

Engine service

Servicing our Suzuki DF90 outboard engine.

(Photo by G. Bearzi)

07 May 2018

Mussel farming net on the beach

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Northern Adriatic Sea)

"Stranded" mussel farming nets

Plenty of discarded tubular nets used for mussel farming, found "stranded" on beaches south of Chioggia, Italy.

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Northern Adriatic Sea)