For those who need water to breathe
During the sardine run, dolphins, sharks, and birds often exhibit a form of cooperative hunting known as “bait ball feeding.” Here’s how these predators work together:

DOLPHINS

Dolphins are highly intelligent and agile hunters. They often play a key role in detecting the presence of sardine shoals. Using their echolocation abilities, dolphins locate the dense aggregations of sardines and begin herding them into tight clusters, or bait balls, near the water’s surface.

common dolphins in South Africa
shark bait ball south africa

SHARKS

Sharks, particularly species like bronze whalers, dusky sharks, and black tip sharks, are attracted to the commotion caused by the sardine bait balls. They join the hunt, swimming into the bait balls to feed on the tightly packed sardines. Sharks may attack from below, targeting sardines that try to escape deeper into the water.

BIRDS

Various species of seabirds, including gannets, terns, and shearwaters, also participate in the feeding frenzy. They dive from the air into the bait balls, plunging into the water to catch sardines near the surface. Birds benefit from the hunting efforts of dolphins and sharks, as the predators drive the sardines closer to the surface where they are more accessible to aerial predators.

cape gannets diving south africa
Overall, these predators form a dynamic and interconnected food web during the sardine run. While they may compete for access to sardines at times, they also benefit from each other’s presence and contribute to the efficient consumption of the massive shoals of fish. This cooperative hunting behavior is a remarkable example of the complex interactions that occur within marine ecosystems.

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