The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner is another entry in the excellent Scientists in the Field series.
In a remote part of the Australian coast, scientists observe a tribe of local dolphins who have developed some unusual, and impressive, skills. Some use sponges as tools, holding them in their mouths and using them to startle bottom-dwelling fish off the bay's rocky floor. Others chase fish onto the beaches and catch them, managing to leave and return to the water. One brave female goes after much larger prey than the others, preferring to eat one large meal instead of several small ones. These skills seem to be passed down from mother to child. Why have the dolphins learned these skills? What else might they be capable of?
This book was a lot of fun to read, with a relatively informal narrative style and a bit of humor thrown in occasionally. The author tells the story of Janet Mann, a scientist who has devoted her career to studying the Shark Bay dolphins. She also tells the stories of the dolphins themselves, explaining their complex social structures and their various hunting styles. There's a little bit of anthropomorphizing, through the author tries to avoid it, but who among us could resist the temptation to describe dolphin interactions in human terms? (Considering the amount of times I have put words in my dog's mouth, not me!) This book is sure to charm all dolphin-loving readers.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)