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kottke.org posts about dolphins

Teenage Dolphins Get High on Puffer Fish Toxin

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2018

In 2014, BBC aired a two-part documentary that featured intimate and close-up footage of dolphins using remote-controlled cameras disguised as sea creatures like turtles and fish. In one of the scenes, a group of adolescent dolphins captures a puffer fish and passes the ball-shaped little guy around. But as narrator David Tennant explains, what the dolphins really appear to be after is the toxin released by the puffer.

When attacked, puffer fish release a neurotoxin. In high doses, it can kill, but in small doses, it has a narcotic effect. It seems to be affecting the dolphins. They appear totally blissed out by the whole experience. And remarkably, all take turns in passing the puffer around.

Puff, puff, pass. Puff, puff, pass. Look at these blissed-out young’uns!

Dolphins High

The dolphins were filmed gently playing with the puffer, passing it between each other for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, unlike the fish they had caught as prey which were swiftly torn apart.

Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.

At one point the dolphins are seen floating just underneath the water’s surface, apparently mesmerised by their own reflections.

Dolphins surfing

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2015

As if you needed more proof that dolphins are cool: they enjoy surfing.

The Cove

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 21, 2009

The Cove has been getting great reviews: four stars from Ebert (who calls it “a certain Oscar nominee”) and a score of 82 on Metacritic. A quick synopsis from Wikipedia followed by the trailer:

The Cove is a 2009 documentary film documenting the annual killing of more than 2,500 dolphins in a cove at Taiji, Wakayama in Japan. The film was directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, and was filmed secretly during 2007 using underwater microphones and high-definition cameras disguised as rocks.

Dolphins, the chefs of the sea

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2009

My grandpappy used to say to me, “Them dolphins is smart. The chefs of the sea they are!”** Scientists have observed bottlenose dolphins preparing cuttlefish for consumption.

Considering they can’t wield a knife or cleaver, dolphins make impressive butchers. Researchers in Australia recently observed a bottlenose performing a precise series of manoeuvres to kill, gut and bone a cuttlefish. The six-step procedure gets rid of the invertebrate’s unappetising ink and hard-to-swallow cuttlebone.

** This is not true.

Dolphins and tuna can swim so fast

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2008

Dolphins and tuna can swim so fast that the water around their tails cavitates.

When the bubbles [formed by cavitation] collapse, they produce a shockwave, which eats away the metal in propellers. To dolphins, it is painful. According to the researchers’ calculations, within the top few metres of the water column, this happens when the dolphins reach 10 to 15 metres per second (36 to 54 kilometres per hour).

Tuna don’t have this pain problem; their tails don’t have nerve endings.