Saturday, September 13, 2014

Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins

On our last day at Forillon National Park, the winds had subsided and both Gaspe Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence were relatively calm.  We thus decided to take a whale-watching cruise and spent more than two hours off  Cape Gaspe.  During that time we saw a good number of fin, hump-backed and minke whales; the most fascinating spectacle, however, was provided by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.

Native to the cool waters of the North Atlantic, from the Mid Atlantic States to northeastern Europe, these sleek, gregarious dolphins complement the crisp, invigorating environment in which they live.  Adults weigh up to 500 pounds and may live for 25 years or more; mating occurs in summer and the calf is born 11 months later, staying with mom and nursing for up to 18 months.  Feeding in pods that may consist of sixty or more individuals, white-sided dolphins often feast in the company of whales, consuming squid and a variety of fish.  As with many species of dolphins, the presence of a boat seems to stimulate acrobatic activity, as it did today.

In comparison with the more southern, bottle-nosed dolphin, the Atlantic white-sides have a blunted snout and clean-edged black and white markings.  Since today's cruise provided my first exposure to these northern hunters, I hesitate to draw too many conclusions; nevertheless, they seemed to be more agile and energetic than their warm-water cousins.