One of our co-founders at MAUI63, Rochelle Constantine and team, have found some new and exciting research on the changing of Māui dolphins’ diet!
The research investigates how their diet has changed over time, especially since the implementation of the Marine Mammal Protected Area in 2008. The researchers collected skin samples from 101 dolphins one year old or older, from 1993 to 2021.
As Māui dolphins mostly eat small fish less than 10cm in size, they need a lot of food therefore the distribution of their prey is important in influencing their diet. With climate change warming the ocean; it this affects the dolphins’ diet. The type of prey changes in response to ocean temperatures and possibly their preferred prey are not available. This is particularly noticeable in unusually warm years when different fish may come into coastal waters, or their typical prey move elsewhere.
It also shows that the sex of the dolphins does not influence the amount of prey they consume, with males and females. Some other effects that could have influenced the diets are age and stress-related, but the study ruled these out as unlikely factors of the dolphin’s diets. This makes the climate and changes in trophic prey availability the most likely explanation for the differences seen.
Overall, the study presents further knowledge of the world’s most endangered marine dolphin. Climate change is influencing the ocean and this study is further evidence that these dolphins and their environment need to be protected. With sufficient prey and flexibility in their diet, they can meet their dietary requirements to recover from near extinction.
You can read the full paper here: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.220470
These samples were collected with permission from the University of Auckland Animal Ethics Committee and New Zealand Department of Conservation, in consultation with mana whenua.
A Māui Dolphin in its habitat.