Dolphin detective work makes a match!
Bottlenose dolphins seen at Gairloch have been identified as previous visitors to Tobermory Bay!
A group of bottlenose dolphins sighted in early June by Hebridean Whale Cruises - who report sightings made during their trips via our recording app, Whale Track - have been identified by Rian Harris, our Education and Photo ID Volunteer.
Skipper, Steve Truluck, captured some amazing photographs of the dolphins’ dorsal fins, clearly showing the unique nicks and markings used to identify individuals. Older dolphins often have marks and scars inflicted by other animals (including rake marks caused by other dolphins’ teeth) which can be used as identifying features to recognise individuals from a population.
Comparing Steve’s photos to pictures in our Bottlenose Dolphin Catalogue, we were able to match four dolphins to recorded animals that have visited us right here in Tobermory Bay in 2016 and 2018! Also, one of the dolphins spotted during the encounter, a male, has been sighted regularly since 2005.
These dolphins are members of the Inner Hebrides group, a community of 30 to 40 animals that inhabit the waters between Kintyre and the Isle of Skye. In 2006, our researchers were the first to suggest that groups of bottlenose dolphins were resident year round on the Scottish west coast. Since then, our data have revealed the west coast of Scotland is home to two seperate groups: the Inner Hebrides community and a smaller group of around 15 dolphins, the Sound of Barra community.
Photo-identification is a powerful research tool, but the work would not be possible without the contributions made by our community of citizen scienctists and local wildlife tour operators – we are extremely grateful to everyone who shares their sightings and photos with us.
Our Bottlenose Dolphin ID Catalogue is currently being updated by Education & Photo-ID Volunteer Rian, and will be released along with our updated Minke Whale ID Catalogue later this year.