Finless porpoise in Dubai waters

IMG_0456red Feature: Cristyn Ashley

January field work has been very rewarding indeed. The project has been extremely fortunate to spot finless porpoises on two separate occasions during our recent scientific survey. Finless porpoises are among the smallest cetaceans in the world. Not only do the grow to just over 1 and a half meters but they lack a dorsal fin, which compounds the difficulty in spotting them. Let’s just say we now understand why very little is known about these animals!

The first sighting was short and sweet. The sea was not on our side, and the waves were higher than the porpoise. We only managed to stay with them for around 5 minutes before they disappeared. However, the fact we could positively identify and photograph this species in that short space of time was both exciting and frustrating. Our second sighting followed a few days later. This time the sea was perfect. We counted four individuals including a juvenile, and managed to record several different behaviours.

During our observation we noted that the porpoises would surface for 2-3 breaths then reappear in a completely different location to where we anticipated them to from the direction of travel. We observed the group split and reform many times, which is what may be expected as the basic group size is 2 animals (either mother and calf or 2 adults) and larger pods are congregations of these smaller groups. We were also fortunate to witness feeding behavior during which the porpoise breached several times rushing in one direction and then suddenly stopping. Lots of seagulls joined the group too. A great encounter indeed!