Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...

It’s Time To Breach The Snake River Dams

The Snake River dams were controversial even before they were built.  While they were still...
Save the whale. Save the world.

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Nat Geo for Disney+ Luis Lamar

Five Facts About Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most recognizable and popular species...
Alexi Archer cropped

Meet the 2022 Interns: Alexi Archer

I am thrilled to welcome Alexi to WDC as the newest member of our Marine...
Saya

Meet the 2022 Interns: Saya Butani

I'm happy to welcome the newest member of the WDC team, Saya Butani, who is...
Block Island wind credit: Regina Asutis-Silvia

Offshore Wind: Don’t Blow It

Recently, new areas were added to the growing list of potential sites for offshore wind...
Sierra

Meet the 2022 Interns: Sierra Osborne

I'm delighted to introduce WDC's Conservation Education intern for Summer 2022, Sierra Osborne! Without hesitation,...

Caught on camera – meet the dolphins of the Azores

WDC’s Sarah Dolman reports on her final days in the Azores where she helped carry out field work for a local research organization, Nova Atlantis, this summer.

In my 4 weeks on Pico we saw more pods of Risso’s dolphins than any other species! In the 15 years that the study has been underway, Nova Atlantis have photographed 1,250 individual dolphins, about 150 of which live in the survey around. The rest have a wider home range and are just passing through.


Nova Atlantis have discovered that Risso’s dolphins don’t have the same social structure as bottlenose dolphins or pilot whales. As the males age, they form more stable pods with other males. This is rare in the animal world and it’s thought that these alliances may help them to get females and also to defend their habitat. We saw this first hand when a small group of local male Risso’s scared off both northern bottlenose whales and pilot whales – both larger pods and larger animals than resident Risso’s.

The females form looser groups, but they cluster together when they have young calves, we assume to enable mutual protection, for example from sharks, and to enable more productive foraging. These females stick closer to the shore when their calves are very young.

Nova Atlantis have been investigating the scar patterns on Risso’s dolphins to understand their ages better, more scars means older animals. It seems there is lots we can learn from them including that the scars are stable and remain over time. This helps us to identify individuals from one survey year to another. Risso’s dolphins mainly eat gelatinous cephalopods (squid), which don’t require teeth to capture or eat, so the teeth may be a sign of ‘male quality’ and the older and more scratched a male is, the more attractive he is to a potential mate.  The females are also less scratched on their bodies than the males, which may mean they are more peaceful in their interactions. This work on aging has also shown us that Risso’s dolphins can live for 50 years!

We also had amazing encounters with lots of other incredible species whilst I was in the Azores. Here is some underwater video footage that we were lucky enough to collect of false killer whales and spotted dolphins when they came to interact with our survey vessel.

It’s two weeks since I returned from my trip to Pico to learn about the Risso’s dolphins and I’m now on the Isle of Lewis, back at WDC’s own field study, where we have had pods of Scottish Risso’s dolphins already! But more about that in another blog to follow…

Risso’s dolphins

False killer whales

Spotted dolphins