Scientists have documented incidents of dolphins using exhaled air to form bubbles, rings, or torus formations, which they can “play” with, either alone or in groups. The dolphins also appeared to monitor the quality of their rings, with the practice of evaluation a critical skill, as it is necessary to have a solid single ring in order to produce the even more intricate double ring formations. These demonstrations of planning and assessment of performance are fascinating demonstrations of the cognitive capabilities of these animals, which have an encephalization quotient (EQ)—an estimation of intelligence based on the size of the brain in relation to total body size—surpassing those of many other mammals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
Wild dolphins also use bubbles for hunting purposes in the form of bubble net fishing. Several other wild cetaceans—including humpback whales, orcas and Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins—have also been observed producing bubble formations. Much more research is needed, however, before we can fully understand the mechanics and strategies involved in the development of this amazing skill in multiple marine mammal species.
If you are fortunate enough to swim with dolphins and have the necessary underwater photography equipment, these intelligent and playful creatures offer amazing photographic opportunities. In order to catch underwater bubbles in optimal lighting, consider moving as close as possible to your subject and having the light positioned behind your subject. To capture bubbles flosting to the surface, position yourself at a horizontal angle and then tilt your lens slightly towards the surface to ensure the light is behind the bubbles. Remember to use a fast shutter setting as the bubbles will be moving quickly and if you are in clear waters, try to use a low ISO of about 100.
Always remember that light and colour get absorbed underwater. Possible solutions include a colour correction filter, a strobe, or adjusting the white balance. Some cameras have predefined scene presets and one of those settings might be for an underwater scene. While on this preset, the camera compensates for the bluish-greenish hues underwater by adding reds to the image in order to achieve more natural tones.
Of course if you are watching dolphins create bubbles underwater, the most important thing is to enjoy the moment. These intelligent marine mammals have lots to teach us. Presemtly some aspects of cetaceans’ manufacture and use of bubbles remain enigmatic. For example, bubble bursts and formations should, in theory, disrupt sonar/echolocation transmission. As cetaceans use echolocation to “see” underwater, this disruption would essentially blind the animals to what is going on behind the bubbles that they emit—presumably obscuring their perception of the prey that they are pursuing. This issue has fascinated engineers, as the answer to the question of how dolphins “see” through their bubbles could have profound implications for improving the effectiveness of sonar technology in turbid conditions.
Source: Ecology Global Network