The Surprise Lineage

Surprise, named for her tendency to suddenly show up at the bow of researchers boats, was another provisioned adult female. Surprise was known to researchers as an adolescent before she began visiting the beach. It wasn’t until 1990, when Holeyfin escorted Surprise into the beach, that she became a regular visitor.

Nicky didn’t seem to share Holeyfin’s affinity for Surprise. She frequently attacked Surprise in the first couple of years when she would come into the provisioning area. Holeyfin would then have to defend her friend Surprise from her own daughter. Researchers suspect that without Holeyfin’s help, Surprise would never have become a beach visitor.

When Surprise first began visiting, she often refused fish, showing little interest in the hand feeding. This interest changed one year later, when she had her first calf. However, even today Surprise accepts less fish from the rangers than the other females. She is an impressive forager, constantly chasing and catching her own fish.

Shadow was Surprise’s first known calf. He was born in December 1992, but only survived a few months. Her next born calf, Shock was successfully weaned and was always very large for her age. Like her mother she is an impressive forager, hunting predominantly in the shallow flats northeast of Monkey Mia. Shock gave birth to her first calf, a girl named Startle, in 2007. Though Startle flourished as a calf, she was attacked by a shark soon after she was weaned in 2011 and disappeared shortly thereafter.

Sparky is Surprise’s second surviving calf. Sparky was born in 1998 is doing exceptionally well- he is a mischievous and frisky dolphin, and like his older sister, very large for his age. Sparky’s next sibling is Burda who was born in January 2003. Keeping with the theme of the beach dolphin calves that were born that year, Burda’s name is the Aboriginal word for “star”. Burda has also been successfully weaned and now spends his time hanging out with his brother Sparky and other friends offshore.

Surprise had another boy, Shiver, in 2006. Shiver also suffered a serious shark attack when he was little, and now sports a serious of distinctive shark bites on his peduncle. Despite that he has also been successfully weaned and keeps busy playing with his niece Static, little sister Sonic, and friends Flute and Samu.

On November 17th, 2010, Surprise gifted us with a little girl dolphin, Sonic. Sonic was named after an acoustic research project which will help us learn how young dolphins learn to echolocate. Sonic was soon followed by her nephew Static born on November 24th, 2011, who was also a part of the acoustics project. In 2014 Surprise gave birth to another calf, Barda, who unfortunately only lived for a few weeks. Barda is an aboriginal work meaning “see you again” and “goodbye”. Static sadly died in 2016. Shock gave birth to a new baby in 2017, but Bilyuna only lived three days. Shock has since passed away, leaving behind no living offspring, though she is survived by her three siblings.

Surprise spending time with her daughter, Sonic.
Photo Credit: Madison Miketa