Welcome to September's Species of the Month - the Risso's dolphin!
I'm aware that we're already almost a week into September but i have a very good reason for being a bit late to start this particular blog ... I'm currently in the field in the northwest corner of Scotland (on the beautiful Isle of Lewis) conducting our very own WDCS Risso's research project and they've been keeping us busy! More on our work in a later blog and in the meantime, check out our blog from the field!
Risso's dolphins or Grampus griseus (always makes me think of a grizzly, grey Grandpa!) are possibly one of the most charismatic of all the dolphin species. They are large dolphins with no perceptible beak, and as their name implies the dominant colour is grey, although this changes with age as the animal becomes paler over time. A very sociable animal, the Risso's dolphin bears the scars from it's close interactions with fellow Risso's. Tooth rake marks and other scratches make individuals easy to recognise helping researchers learn more about these enigmatic creatures lives.
Although the Risso's dolphin is one of the less well studied odontocetes due to it being a predominantly offshore species (their main prey item is squid), there are several long-term projects focusing on the species and over the next month we'll be hearing from all of the researchers from various locations around the world, including of course from here in Scotland.
Interestingly, the first dolphin in the world to be protected by law was a Risso's dolphin called Pelorus Jack. Pelorus Jack accompanied ships travelling between Wellington and Nelson in New Zealand and was first noticed in 1888 when he joined a steamer bound for Nelson. Pelorus Jack spent the next 24 years escorting boats from Pelorus Sound to the treacherous French Pass and due to the fact that in the early 1900s someone fired at him from a steamer an Order in Council was drawn up in 1904, declaring him protected. His ultimate fate was never established. Rumours told of Norwegian whalers killing him, but others claimed to have seen his body on a beach.
I'll leave you for the moment to read up on the background to this species and be back soon with our first research installment.