Hurricane Katrina caused a baby dolphin boom
Hurricane Katrina was irredeemably terrible for everyone involved — except, it turns out, baby dolphins. (And presumably adult dolphins, who got to enjoy making baby dolphins.) In the years after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, these cuties multiplied like excuses at a BP press conference, Scientific American reports:
Around two years after the hurricane struck, there was a massive increase in the number of dolphin calves observed. In other words, bottlenose dolphins living in the Mississippi sound experienced a reproductive increase during the two years following the storm. Either, they made more baby dolphins, or more baby dolphins were surviving, or both.
Now, we know you are super excited right now, because a positive correlation between hurricanes and baby dolphins means that the world makes sense in some mixed-up way, and good inevitably follows bad, just as ice cream inevitably follows throat surgery.
But the reasons for the baby dolphin boom aren’t all sugar and caramel swirls. The scientists looking into the phenomenon identified a few possible causes. One was that momma dolphins had a bunch of babies all at once to replace calves that had perished in the storm. So that’s sad.
The other main cause of the dolphin baby boom was the destruction the hurricane wreaked on the Gulf’s fishing fleet. Fewer fishing boats meant more fish, plus more time for dolphins to do something other than avoiding boats — such as chowing down on all those fish. More fish and more eating meant healthier momma dolphins with more nutritious milk and dolphin babies with fuller tummies, once they started eating fish themselves. The only loser: the entire economy in the Gulf.
Since not all hurricanes ground fishing fleets for a season or two, that could mean that not all have the potential to create piles of dolphin babies. Still, a cuteness bomb is a cuteness bomb, so go ahead, get excited about baby dolphins.
- What Do Hurricanes Mean For Dolphins? , Scientific American