They are friendly, happy, playful … and smart. They are the dolphins. Whales maintain complex and close relationships, speak to each other and have regional dialects. There are other types that show great skills. Gorillas have friends for life and hold large annual gatherings. And they are known to use tools. Well, dolphins also use tools.
There are characteristics in primates and dolphins that we usually associate with our essential nature. A study published in “Current Biology” appeared this week. It shows that dolphins can learn skills from their peers. This is how they discover how to catch fish with empty shells.
“Our study is concerned with foraging behavior. Here the dolphins catch fish in empty shells. It shows that it extends through social learning among very close colleagues, ”says Sonja Wild. She is the first author of the study and a scientist at the University of Leeds (Great Britain). “This is great. Dolphins and other toothed whales often follow the strategy of imitating mothers to learn food.
What exactly do dolphins learn from their colleagues? They follow their prey, usually fish, to empty empty shells on the floor. When the fish come in, the dolphins show their snouts. Then they rise to the surface with them to empty them of water. This way they drop the fish into its mouth.
In fact, this strange behavior is the second known example of dolphin use of tools, other than the use of sea sponges that resemble shells.
These discoveries were made between 2007 and 2018. A group of scientists studied Shark Bay in Australia. They identified over 1,000 Indo-Pacific dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) and recorded 5,300 encounters with them. They observed the foraging behavior with mussels 42 times. They found that this behavior extends between generations and not between generations. This means that it is not learned from mothers, but from “colleagues”.
Similarities between species
“This underlines the similarities between whales and apes,” says Michael Krützen, co-author of the paper. “There are strong similarities between the two,” he continues. “They are both long-lived mammals with a large brain. They can innovate their behavior and pass it on culturally. And dolphins also use tools.
Wild warnings that not all dolphins use this behavior so often. They suspect that “some dolphins are more proficient than others”.
This helps us understand how dolphins can adapt their behavior. “Learning from others enables a quick expansion of behavior in the population. Species with these abilities have been suggested to survive more easily. “