Wild Dolphins Observed Giving Gifts to Humans

Written by Stephen Messenger

While it’s already well known that dolphins rank among the most intelligent creatures on the planet, new research is suggesting that they just might be one of the most magnanimous too.

A team of biologists recently published a study examining dozens of fascinating cases of inter-species generosity between orca and human, all taking place along the shore of Australia’s Tangalooma Island Resort. According to their findings, wild dolphins have been observed bearing gifts, such as dead “eels, tuna, squid, [and] an octopus” to humans on 23 separate occasions.

In the report, which appeared earlier this month in the journal Anthrozoös, researchers describe the rare gestures as “an established but infrequent part of the culture of the provisioned dolphins at Tangalooma,” yet the reasons for the gift-giving remain unclear. The wild dolphins are said to be frequent visitors to the resort and appear to be accustomed to receiving food from beach-goers; scientists speculate that the animals might either be giving in return, or consider humans too inadequate at hunting and in need of a free meal.

The blog EarthSky likens this behavior of food sharing to that occasionally seen in our closest feline companions. “Domesticated cats that have a tendency to drop prey items at their owner’s feet,” reports EarthSky. “[But] inter-species food sharing in wild animal populations has not been widely documented in the scientific literature.”

Although the true biological motivation behind this gift-giving behavior exhibited by the dolphins at Tangalooma hasn’t been pinpointed, it seems to suggest at least that the animals look upon us as not so different from themselves — and that just might be the greatest interspecies gift of all.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Jim Hart
James Hart2 years ago

I guess this would mean that the japanese are CANNIBALS

"Although the true biological motivation behind this gift-giving behavior exhibited by the dolphins at Tangalooma hasn’t been pinpointed, it seems to suggest at least that the animals look upon us as not so different from themselves — and that just might be the greatest interspecies gift of all."

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/wild-dolphins-observed-giving-gifts-to-humans.html#ixzz2nPHuIO9i

Kate R.
Kate R.2 years ago

One of my cats is a hunter & when she brings in something to share she makes a special call to alert everyone that there's food available. I just tell her how wonderful she is & let one of the others do the eating. When she brings something back that she intends to eat herself, she makes no sound at all.

Connie T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Maybe they're just teaching us lesser beings a lesson? Check out the Monkey Mia site!

Kari J.
Kari J.3 years ago

Laurie, it seems to me that like humans dolphins also have their mentally unstable.

Laurie S.
Laurie S.3 years ago

@ Ron B.

You might want to check your evolutionary trees (cladistics) a little more carefully. Both dolphins and whales went through the evolutionary steps to become land animals with four legs positioned under the body, as all modern mammals have, and then they migrated back to the sea. That's why dolphins and whales are sea mammals, not fish.

Laurie S.
Laurie S.3 years ago

1 of 2

@ Avril L.

I love dolphins. They are tremendously intelligent, and they have saved humans in trouble in the oceans. They clearly have an advanced culture that varies from pod to pod, as culture varies from pod to pod in their close kin, the whales. Our worst insult however, is to call them animals, since we all know what humans generally mean when they say that.

Dolphins have been seen to have many human flaws, not surprising since high intelligence, high enough for abstract reasoning (and there is evidence of that too) brings with it the capacity to do the wrong thing on purpose.

As you have seen in one story here on care 2, dolphins are known to bully their disabled. They exclude the unusual members from the social life of the pod. I once read a news story about an adult dolphin tormenting a newborn by repeatedly letting it get to within inches of the surface in it's desperate attempts to breathe, only to punch it down into the water away from life giving oxygen until it drowned. I couldn't find that story again, but I found this one:

Continued next post:

Laurie S.
Laurie S.3 years ago

2 of 2

"Dolphins are one of the few large animals that seems to kill for the fun of it and commit acts of infanticide. Off Scotland, a scientist once watched in horror as an adult dolphin picked up an infant dolphin in its mouth and beat it against the water repeatedly for an hour. Off Virginia, researchers found nine dead baby dolphins, with their skulls and ribs smashed and teeth marks matching those of adult dolphins."

The rest of the page details many amazing and wonderfully pro-social things dolphins do as well. Don't sell them short by thinking of then as "animals" and don't put them on a pedestal and act like they are "angels." They are neither. I think the only thing that prevents us from calling them people is our own arrogance. It is very clear they have knowledge of both good and evil.


Nancy O.
Nancy O.3 years ago

In reading the comments it looks like the Nancys stick together, LOL! Nancy W, that was my first thought!

Nancy O.
Nancy O.3 years ago

Has anyone thought of the possibility that they are trying to show us the dangerous conditions that their environment is in?

Lynn D.
Lynn D.3 years ago

Adorable,....thanks for sharing with us!