From the heroic Flipper to the charismatic Willy, dolphins and whales have made some splashy supporting actors. And since they often seem almost as smart and interesting as their human costars, perhaps it’s not surprising that a new movement is afoot to grant these animals “human rights.”
Research on everything from whale communication to “trans-species psychology” hints that the glowing portrayals of these fictional animal friends have some basis in reality. If cetaceans—marine mammals including whales, dolphins, and porpoises—can act like humans, even using tools and recognizing themselves in a mirror, shouldn’t they have the same basic rights as people?
That’s what attendees of a meeting organized by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said yesterday, where a multidisciplinary panel agreed on a “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins.” Read More
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a game of soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from). A new video has surfaced showing dolphins “kicking” around a ball—only the ball, in this case, is a jellyfish.
From the Daily Mail:
A team of marine biologists were astonished to see a dolphin swim under a jellyfish and with a quick flick of its tail shoot it out of the water. The bottlenose dolphins were caught on video performing the strange activity off the Welsh coastline. One dolphin was able to flip the jellyfish six feet up in the air.
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Video: YouTube / countrysidecouncil
For one toddler in Colorado, parrots may displace dogs as man’s best friend. Willie the parrot warned his owner that a nearby baby was choking by repeating, “Mama, baby,” when the woman left the room and the toddler started to choke on her breakfast.
All was fine after the woman performed the Heimlich maneuver, but she gives credit to the parrot for the baby’s life. Willie was recognized on Friday with an Animal Lifesaver Award at an event called the Breakfast of Champions, attended by both the governor of Colorado and the mayor of Denver.
Willie’s call is just the latest in a string of heroic acts by non-humans—there was Buddy the German shepherd who called 911 last year when his owner began having a seizure (and is not the only dog to have done so), and a pod of dolphins who rescued a surfer from a great white shark. (Nor was that a unique incident.)
Last month, we reported that female dolphins had learned to use sponges to catch their prey. And now, it turns out that not only do dolphins use tools, but they also have a recipe for calamari.
Australian researchers have observed a female bottlenose dolphin using her snout to prepare a meal of cuttlefish. But instead of just gobbling up the fish, the dolphin carefully extracted its bones before dining—a display of chef-like skills that is extraordinary among marine mammals.
The feast took place in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf, where cuttlefish breed. The researchers had first filmed this amazing culinary-enabled dolphin off the coast of South Australia in 2003, where they saw her preparing four different cuttlefish. They were able to identify her in 2007 by her scars (apparently the circular scars on her head were unique enough to identify her four years later). They recorded her meals with a Sony HD Cam video camera, and later used the footage to analyze her foraging behavior. The results were finally published in PLoS One in January of this year.
In case you wanted to know, here’s her recipe for cuttlefish:
Dolphins always seem to find the most bizarre ways to make the headlines. In their most recent adventure, it appears that a dolphin named Moko has come to the rescue of two beached pygmy whales—by “communicating with the whales and leading them to safety,” according to the BBC.
Malcolm Smith, who was at the scene, said “there was obviously something that went on because the two whales changed their attitude from being quite distressed to following the dolphin quite willingly and directly along the beach and straight out to sea.” This extraordinary tale of cetacean correspondence was also covered by CNN, The LA Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and various Australian papers.
So what happened out there between Moko and the whales? Did she really communicate with them? If so, do these animals share a language—dolphinese perhaps?