Dolphin News

Dolphin Researchers Make Breakthrough in Hong Kong

June 27, 2001 - Reuters

The world's first artificially conceived dolphins have been born in tiny Hong Kong, marking a major step in efforts to reduce inbreeding in captivity and preserve endangered dolphin species.

The two calves, which have yet to be named, were born nine days apart in May, scientists in Hong Kong said.

Mothers Ada and Gina, both bottlenose dolphins, made history last June when they became the world's first dolphins to be successfully inseminated artificially.

Using ultrasound, scientists from Hong Kong's Polytechnic University, the territory's Ocean Park aquarium and Seaworld in the United States were able to accurately predict ovulation in dolphins for the first time.

Dolphins have very irregular ovulation cycles, making artificial insemination exceptionally difficult, and past attempts in the United States have failed.

The calves, one female and one male, have been keeping close by their mothers, said Fiona Brook, head of the 12-year-old project and an associate professor at the Polytechnic University.

``They are big, fat, healthy calves,'' Brook told Reuters.


While dolphins in general do not have problems reproducing, inbreeding can quickly become a problem with dolphins in captivity, which produces genetically weaker offspring.

Artificial insemination broadens the genetic pool and reduces the need to bring in dolphins from the wild.

Ada, 17, and Gina, 20, from Indonesian waters, were impregnated just over a year ago with sperm from 17-year-old Molly, also a resident at Ocean Park.

An artificially-conceived dolphin (top) prepares to surface with its mother at Hong Kong's Ocean Park June 27, 2001. The dolphin is one of two calves which are yet to be named and who were born in May in the territory, marking a major step in efforts to reduce inbreeding in captivity and preserve the endangered species.

The technology also could be used to help endangered dolphin species.

Scientists and environmentalists in Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about pink dolphins, also known as Chinese White Dolphins, which are facing extinction because of pollution and overfishing.

Marine biologists in Hong Kong believe there are only about 150 pink dolphins left in China's nearby Pearl River estuary, while 1,000 may still survive in southern Chinese waters including areas off Macau and Hong Kong.

Scientists in Hong Kong now want to experiment with artificial insemination using sperm that had been frozen, which could further enlarge the genetic pool.

``If we can do it using frozen sperm, what that will allow is we can extend the genetic pool worldwide. We can bring frozen sperm from anywhere in the world and inseminate females here or we can send semen here to anywhere else in the world,'' Brook said.

Dolphin saves boy's life

Boy pushed back to his boat after fall

August 30, 2000 - Daily Record - Scotland

A friendly dolphin has saved a teenage boy from drowning.

Non-swimmer Davide Ceci, 14, was within minutes of death when dolphin Filippo came to his rescue.

The friendly 61-stone creature has been a popular tourist attraction off Manfredonia in south-east Italy for two years.

But now he is a local hero after saving Davide from the Adriatic when he fell from his father's boat.

While Emanuele Ceci was still unaware his son had fallen into the waves, Filippo was pushing him up out of the water to safety.

Davide said: "When I realised it was Filippo pushing me, I grabbed on to him."

The dolphin bore down on the boat and got close enough for Davide's father to grab his gasping son.

Davide's mother Signora Ceci said: "It is a hero, it seems impossible an animal could have done something like that, to feel the instinct to save a human life."

Filippo has lived in the waters off Manfredonia since he became separated from a visiting school of dolphins.

Maritime researcher Dr Giovanna Barbieri said: "Filippo seems not to have the slightest fear of humans. I'm not surprised he should have done such a wonderful thing as to save a human."

Dolphins Whistle "hello"

Dolphins form stong, lasting bond with each other

August 24, 2000 - BBC

Wild dolphins greet each of their pals using individual whistle signatures.

Until now this sort of behaviour has only been found in birds and humans.

Previous research with captive dolphins shows that each one has a unique whistle and can mimic another dolphin's whistle perfectly after hearing it just once.

Biologist Dr Vincent Janik at the University of St Andrews in Scotland decided to investigate how bottle nose dolphins interact in the wild.

He recorded nearly two thousand whistles from dolphin pods off the Scottish coast.

So as not to disturb the dolphins with noisy boats, he used six underwater microphones and a computer-based method for locating individual vocalists. Human listeners then identified matching whistles.

First step to language

Dr Janik concluded that the dolphins were responding to each other by mimicking an individual's call back. Such interactions with learned signals are thought to be a first step toward the evolution of real language.

Communication between dolphins seems to be quite sophisticated yet no one really knows what they say to each other.