Ongoing Research The Dolphin Explorer research is ongoing and The Marco Review features updates on their fi ndings in every issue. To learn more about this project see the Dolphin Explorer's ads on pages 72 and 73 or visit www.dolphin-explorer.comFemale bottlenose dolphins give birth to their calves in the fall and early winter in this area of Southwest Florida. This season we greeted three new calves into the community of dolphins whose range includes the Marco River and the intercoastal waterway north to Marker 44. The most recent mother to give birth and the fi rst of 2011 was Captain Hook. On Saturday, February 13, Rodger Parcelles, Captain of the Marco Princess, alerted us to the presence of a very young dolphin he spotted in Factory Bay. That afternoon, the survey team aboard the Dolphin Explorer confi rmed that Captain Hook was indeed with a newly born calf. Rodger named the new arrival Sunshine. Since then we have spotted the pair on four different occasions. In photos from these sightings it is still possible to see the slowly fading lines from fetal folds, marks that indicate a very young dolphin. This is the second time Captain Hook has given birth during the fi ve years we have been keeping tabs on her. In November of 2008 she had a calf we named Hoppy that did not survive. Studies of coastal bottlenose dolphins suggest that the fi rst year of life is a diffi cult one for any dolphin but that the survival rate increases with the age (and perhaps size and experience) of the mother. For most of the dol-phin mothers in our area there is an interval of three years between births. This was true of the other two birth mothers this season. In September Sparky and Halfway gave birth to new calves less than a week apart. For both mothers this was the third calf we have seen them with since we started the Dolphin Project over fi ve years ago.When we happened upon Sparky on September 16, 2010, she was again about the task of nurturing and protecting new life after three years without a calf in her care. It seemed to the twelve of us aboard the Dolphin Explorer that we weren't the only ones excitedly welcoming the arrival of baby Keegan. Orange, his older sibling and a sub-adult now, was next to Sparky and Keegan as they travelled along. Also in attendance were three other mothers with their youngsters, each around one year old. These young calves cavorted around the newborn, anxious it seemed, to incorporate him into their play.A third female dolphin named Halfway (for a notch that occurs exactly halfway down the back of her dor-sal fi n) also gave birth this season. Her new calf Kaya is her third since we met her. She successfully raised her fi rst two - Seymour and Simon - to sub-adulthood and they are now making it on their own in the larger dolphin community. Of the 17 mothers recorded in this area, there are only two - Trigger and Nibbles - that are currently with-out calves and both just passed the fourth year since their last births. In recent sightings, Nibbles has been seen peacefully milling with other females but without her calf Jayson. In the past this sudden absence of an older calf has often been followed by the arrival of a newborn. So, though it is getting late in the birthing season, we may yet see the arrival of a new baby dolphin or two.
Spring 2011 www.marcoreview.com Page 95ON THE WATER