If dolphins learn how to use tools from their mothers, does that mean they have a culture?
This is only one of the interesting questions addressed in this latest entry in the Scientists in the Field series. Unlike their relatives around the world, some dolphins in Shark Bay, in western Australia, use sponges to protect their rostrums while foraging through the channel bottoms for a fish that can’t be found through echolocation. The explanation for this behavior was found by scientist Janet Mann and her colleagues, who have been studying these dolphins for more than 25 years, observing their actions, charting their lives and even using DNA samples to determine lineage. Turner’s narrative takes readers on board the research boat Pomboo to follow the dolphins for several days as they hunt, nurse, play tag and other games, practice herding and mounting, fight and pet one another affectionately. Smoothly woven into the text are facts about dolphin life and evolution as well as methods of scientific observation. This fascinating window into their complicated society (“a juvenile dolphin’s world resembles middle school. But with sharks”) is illustrated with clearly identified photographs of the dolphins as well as the scientists. The account is followed by solid suggestions for further research, including encouragement to try reading scientific papers.
An exemplary addition to an always thought-provoking series. (more about dolphins, latest news, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)