Dolphins ‘intentionally get excessive’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by rigorously chewing and passing them round | The Unbiased

Dolphins are considered to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they used their ingenuity to get “high”.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins have been seen carefully manipulating a certain type of puffer fish that, when provoked, releases a neurotoxin.

Although large doses of the toxin can be fatal, it has been known to have narcotic effects in small amounts, and the dolphins seemed to have figured out how the fish could release just the right amount.

The marine mammals carefully chew the puffer and pass it on to each other. Then they enter a seemingly trance-like state.

The behavior was captured on camera by the creators of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced by award-winning documentary producer John Downer for BBC One.


Rob Pilley, a zoologist who also worked as a producer on the series, told the Sunday Times, “This was a case of young dolphins deliberately experimenting with what we know is intoxicating.

“After gently chewing the puffer and passing it around, they started acting the strangest, hanging their noses on the surface as if intrigued by their own reflection.

“It reminded us of that madness a few years ago when people started licking toads to get a buzz, especially the way they hung there in a daze afterwards. It was the most extraordinary thing to see. “

The documentary filmmakers used spy cameras hidden in fake turtles, fish and squid to film 900 hours of footage showing dolphins in their natural habitats.

The scenes in which they “use” puffer fish will be shown in the second installment of the series, which begins Thursday.

It is the latest in a long line of wildlife documentaries by Downer that use similar spy camera techniques. Previous series include Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, which, like the Dolphins program, was narrated by David Tennant, Elephants: Spy in the Herd with David Attenborough, and Lions: Spy in the Den.

Downer said, “The espionage creatures were designed to infiltrate the hidden life of dolphins by making them look like the marine animals a dolphin might encounter in their daily life.”

[This article was originally published in 2013]

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