The Loh Down On Science

More dolphin behavior that seems surprisingly human!

Could dolphins be the stoners of the sea?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Filmmaker John Downer and zoologist Rob Pilley have made a documentary called Dolphins: Spy in the Pod.  By hiding cameras in fake sea creatures, they’ve filmed some candid moments—perhaps too candid.  They may have caught dolphins getting high! 

The film shows dolphins chewing puffer fish, which release a nerve toxin that can be deadly in high doses.  But at low doses?  It's possible this molecule, with the amusing name tetrodotoxin, is merely intoxicating.

The mammals seem to get around the lethal aspect by chewing just a bit and then passing the puffer to a friend.

According to Pilley, soon afterwards, the dolphins exhibit odd behavior.  For example, they start hanging around near the surface, he says, “as if fascinated by their own reflection.” 

There could be other explanations for reflection-gazing—dolphin vanity for example. Still, some experts aren’t convinced, and would like to see more definitive proof.

Underwater midnight pizza deliveries, for a start.  Could happen!

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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