Ride Along

Watch: Dolphins strapped with cameras capture never-before-seen views

One dolphin went after some unusual prey.

imageBROKER/Andrey Nekrasov/imageBROKER/Getty Images

This bottlenose dolphin is on the hunt.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

She is wearing a harness with a camera on her back so that researchers can watch her forage in the San Diego Bay.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

She’s just one of a half dozen dolphins observed in a study published this week in the journal PLOS One.

Researchers from the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego wanted to get a first-person view of how dolphins hunt and eat — common behaviors that we still know relatively little about.

imageBROKER/Andrey Nekrasov/imageBROKER/Getty Images

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

They fitted six captive dolphins with harness cameras and recorded them swimming in three locations: the San Diego Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and in an enclosed pool.

They even captured the rapid clicks and excited squeals that dolphins make when they hunt.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Click the volume button to hear this dolphin’s lively squeals after she catches a fish in the Bay.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Notice how she doesn’t devour the fish immediately. The dolphin repositioned the prey in her mouth in order to swallow it head first.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

In the Pacific Ocean, researchers got a surprise when this dolphin went after an animal that dolphins don’t commonly hunt.

She appeared to eat eight young sea snakes in total — one of which she hunts in this video while rapidly clicking and squealing.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Here, an adult sea snake narrowly escapes the jaws of the voracious dolphin.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

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Dolphins have previously been recorded playing with sea snakes but never eating them.

Since this dolphin was born and raised in captivity, researchers think her inexperience hunting in the wild might have made her more apt to chase after uncommon prey.

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Ridgway et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Thankfully, the dolphin appeared to digest the snakes just fine.

And her strange behavior helped researchers capture the first known instance of a dolphin eating a snake on camera.