Written by Stephen Messenger
In case you haven’t heard, dolphins are awesome. Sure, we come from different worlds and all, but our ocean-going mammalian counterparts possess many admirable qualities and characteristics that endear them to us like few other species on Earth.
1. They Like Dogs
While some animals might consider our beloved canine companions to be clumsy, tail-wagging mounds of hair and drool (I’m looking at you, cats), dogs really are like furry gatekeepers to the human heart. It’s no wonder then, after learning of the amazing camaraderie shared between a white labrador and a wild dolphin in Ireland, you just might start to look upon those majestic aquatic mammals as a friend of a friend.
2. They Invent Games to Play With Whales
In recent years off the coast of Hawaii, biologists have recorded several incidents of what appears to be wild humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins mutually engaging in playful roughhousing. This rare interspecies play consists of a game wherein the whale hoists the dolphin out of the water, sending the rider happily tumbling down its back. That’s right, dolphins have convinced whales to be their Slip ‘n Slide.
3. They’re Not Afraid to Ask for Help
Being smart is one thing, but it takes wisdom to know when to ask for help. While in the waters off the coast of Hawaii recently, a group of divers were approached by a wild dolphin that was having trouble swimming. As it turns out, the dolphin was tangled in fishing line was looking for a helping hand — and its persistance paid off. Incredibly, the entire incident of dolphin-human solidarity was captured on film.
4. They Sometimes Bring Us Gifts
Sure, we might not understand the dolphin language of clicks and squeaks, but no words are necessary when they come bearing gifts. According to a recent study, wild dolphins near a resort in Australia have been observed bringing ‘presents’, such as dead “eels, tuna, squid, an octopus” to wading humans on 23 separate occasions. Although the rare behavior is still shrouded in mystery, it might just prove that some dolphins are as smitten with us as we are with them.
5. They Help Rescue Other Species
Nautical lore is ripe with tales of dolphins helping humans in the high sea, though sometimes they’ll even go out of their way to help other aquatic species, too. When two pygmy sperm whales beached themselves in New Zealand a few years back, beachgoers did their best to usher them back out to sea, but to no avail. That’s when a bottlenose dolphin, known as Moko by locals, came to the rescue. Witnesses that after Moko communicated with beached whales, they “changed their attitude from being quite distressed to following the dolphin quite willingly and directly along the beach and straight out to sea.”
6. Even Sperm Whales Love Them
Sperm whales may not have a reputation as the friendliest of sea-faring mammals, but even they are couldn’t resist the company of a bottlenose dolphin in need. While on an expedition to the whales in the North Atlantic, researchers ran across one group that had apparently adopted a deformed dolphin into their pod. “It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason,” says biologist Alexander Wilson. “They were being very sociable.”
7. They Blow Bubble Rings
The development of the blowhole was an essential part of dolphin evolution, allowing the sea-faring mammals to quickly inhale and exhale air at ocean’s surface while keeping an eye out for predators and prey in the water below. Oh, and apparently it’s really handy for blowing rings too.
8. They Work With Fishermen to Catch Fish
Along a stretch of coastline in Laguna, Brazil, local fishermen and dolphins have formed a partnership in the pursuit of a meal. Researchers, who published a study on this unique behavior, describe how the unlikely allies work as a team to wrangle fish: “Through highly synchronized behavior with humans, cooperative dolphins in Laguna drive mullet schools towards a line of fishermen and ‘signal,’ via stereotyped head slaps or tail slaps, when and where fishermen should throw their nets.”
9. They Look Out for Their Friends
While studying dolphins off the coast of South Korea, biologists were treated to a particularly moving scene of dolphin solidarity. One group of dolphins were observed coming to the aid of their sick or injured counterpart who was struggling to stay afloat. The dolphins formed a ‘raft’ of sorts with their bodies, propping up their pod-mate to keep her from drowning.
10. They Know How to Have a Good Time
While we might have a lot to learn about the intricacies of dolphin emotions, it seems pretty clear when they’re having a good time as they leap through the air with utmost precision, or engage in artful displays of underwater acrobatics. Sure, humans and dolphins come from completely different worlds, but there’s nothing quite as unifying as the shared joy of being alive.
This post was originally published by TreeHugger.
Photo: WIlly Volk/flickr