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  • Madison Bowden-Parry

Short-Beaked Common Dolphins in Wales!

The Short-beaked Common Dolphin is one of two species of Common Dolphins. They are the most distributed of Dolphins, inhabiting temperate and tropical waters, and luckily their range extends to us here in Wales!


During the late Spring, early Summer we are granted with many different groups of Dolphins, exhibiting a range of different behaviours! From huge foraging aggregations, younger juvenile male groups and mom/calf groups.


Sub-Adult Short-Beaked Common Dolphins, fast swimming past the boat.

Through-out my career as a behavioural ecologist, I have dedicated a lot of my research and field time to Dolphins, and from a young age, I was completely and utterly fascinated by them, who isn’t?! Their intricate relationships, complex social behaviours and encapsulating playful nature fuelled my passion for them, and also determined my career choice right from the get go.


Conducting Photo-ID on Short-Beaked Common Dolphins in The Gower Peninsula. Photo-ID is an effective tool that many researchers use to monitor populations of animals. By using this non-invasive mark-recapture method, the census of images can be applied to many different questions of population dynamics, habitat use etc. Dolphins have distinct shapes and markings that they are born with, so photographing their dorsal fin and there unqiue features can help researchers identify them time and time again.

Fortunately, I have grown up by the ocean. I went to university and undertook my masters in Cornwall, have worked many hours as a research assistant for numerous non-profits that are dedicated to Dolphin research, and I was able to land a fantastic job as a marine wildlife guide with Gower Coast Adventures here in Swansea, allowing me to put my experience into practice during the Summer!


These experiences have granted me the necessary skills needed for dolphin research and have also equipped me with specialized knowledge of dolphin sociality that I know today. If you refer to my 'Projects' section, you can read more about The Dolphin Alliance Project #DAP, based in Shark Bay, Australia, their renowned work and my experience as a Research Assistant with them. You can also read about my time with The Tethys Research Institute, as a Research Assistant on their Ionian Dolphin Project in Greece.


So, back to Dolphins in Wales! Wales sits in a really unique position, between three oceanic and climatic zones in fact, providing an array of safe habitats and consistent food sources for many animals, so there is no need to venture away if you are a Marine Life geek like me.

Dolphins live complex lives, budgeting activities to compensate with the surrounding ecological pressures, but to everyone’s surprise, the Short-Beaked Common Dolphin lacks in behavioural research here in the UK, or worldwide for that matter. Factors like water visibility, non-residential populations and the nature of large moving marine mammals makes it particularly difficult to study the Dolphins here, but there are some really great upcoming projects on the horizon, to help us understand more of the populations that visit here in Wales.


It is important to know that if you stumble across Dolphins whilst offshore, to stick to the Code of Conduct and never touch the animals. You can find out of how to behave around Dolphins here: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/marine-code-of-conduct/


Happy Dolphin Spotting!

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