Hitching a ride: the formation locomotion strategy of dolphin calves
Article first published online: 16 NOV 2007
© 2007 The Authors
Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 278–283, April 2008
How to Cite
Noren, S. R., Biedenbach, G., Redfern, J. V. and Edwards, E. F. (2008), Hitching a ride: the formation locomotion strategy of dolphin calves. Functional Ecology, 22: 278–283. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2007.01353.x
- Issue published online: 16 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 16 NOV 2007
- Received 14 June 2007; accepted 27 September 2007Handling Editor: Jeffrey Walker
- echelon position;
- stroke and glide propulsion;
- swimming kinematics
- 1Formation locomotion theoretically provides energy savings and it is evident across diverse taxa. Echelon position, described in cetacean (dolphin and whale) mother–infant dyads as calf in very close proximity of its mother's mid-lateral flank, may be a type of formation locomotion that provides hydrodynamic benefits for the calf. Until now, the difficulties associated with assessing the swimming energetics of marine mammals have precluded empirical quantifications of these benefits.
- 2Through kinematic analyses, this study demonstrates empirically that 0–1 month-old dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calves in echelon position are afforded locomotor advantages as evident by increased swim performance with concurrent reductions in effort.
- 3Compared to periods of independent swimming, calves in echelon position showed a 28% increase in average swim speed with reduced effort during stroke phases, as evident by a 22% reduction in fluke stroke amplitude and 19% increase in distance per stroke.
- 4In addition, calves in echelon position spent over a third of their time gliding while no glide phases were observed for independently swimming calves.
- 5The hydrodynamic benefits of echelon position enable cetacean calves, which have extremely limited locomotor performance, to maintain proximity of their mothers during travel, which is vital to infant survival.
- 6This study adds to the limited empirical data regarding the energy economy of formation locomotion in animals.