Dolphin's shark-eaten remains shock beach walkers
WARNING: Graphic images of dolphin carcass below
THE mauled body of a dolphin missing its tail and half its body washed ashore at Mudjimba at the weekend, hard evidence the species' supposed dominance over sharks is just a folk story.
The carcass greeted early-morning walkers heading south from the main surfing beach towards Pincushion Island.
Surfers have long seen the presence of dolphins in the water as a security blanket of sorts, offering protection from sharks - an attitude possibly stoked by the superhero deeds of Flipper.
Ocean and Coast Research scientist Dr Jonathan Werry said the opposite was true.
"Generally tiger and bull sharks will consume juvenile or small dolphins," he said.
"I've seen those in the stomachs of both species."
Tiger sharks will also eat adult dolphins and scavenge on those that are sick or have died of other causes.
Surfers regularly paddle from Mudjimba Beach to Old Woman Island, more than one kilometre offshore. The presence of a large tiger shark near the island has been a part of local lore for the past 45 years.
Patrick Burns, of Mudjimba, said the dolphin that washed ashore the day before a club nippers' surf lifesaving session on the beach looked to have been about two metres long.
It had several bites in its upper body with the back half missing completely.
Dr Werry said there was a misconception that where there was a school of dolphins there would be no sharks.
"It's often the other way around," he said.
"What can happen is that sharks will follow near the bottom and pick up scraps.
"If we see dolphins, we look for sharks.
"Dolphins in big schools are chasing schooling fish. The sharks will be deeper.
"A big shark will take a mature dolphin if it has the opportunity."
Dr Werry runs a shark tagging and monitoring program along the south-east Queensland coast.
The program has tracked bull sharks from the Noosa River that have travelled south into the Gold Coast's Broadwater. There is mounting evidence they return to the river systems in which they are born to then give birth to their own pups.
Mudjimba SLSC president Michael Hughes said there had been no request received to remove the dolphin from the beach, about a kilometre south of the village.