The famous dolphins of Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied in great detail since the early 1980s. Over 35 years of scientific research into one of our planet’s most fascinating populations of wild animals has provided insight into many aspects of their behaviour, genetics, communication and ecology, including the daily challenges they face to find mates and food, and to avoid their enemies and predators.
For a dolphin, Shark Bay is a busy place, packed with friends and foes, collaborators and competitors. Vast seagrass meadows provide forage for turtles and dugongs, and nursery areas for fish; shallow sand flats and mangrove patches are home to countless invertebrates, rays and small sharks; deeper channels support sponge gardens and rocky reefs, providing habitat and hunting grounds for sea snakes, large sharks and, of course, dolphins.
With this myriad of niches to exploit, but so much competition for food and mating opportunities, we find a population of dolphins with incredibly complex social lives and an intriguing repertoire of foraging specialisations, including tool use. Alas, this globally unique ecosystem is vulnerable to the pressures associated with climate change. To find out more, dive into the Dolphin Alliance Project and the Dolphin Innovation Project, or click on the logos below.