Friday, May 27, 2016

Clever Dolphin Tricks

The Guardian:
At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean.

Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on. This behaviour is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realised that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans.

Her cunning has not stopped there. One day, when a gull flew into her pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and then gave it to them. It was a large bird and so the trainers gave her lots of fish. This seemed to give Kelly a new idea. The next time she was fed, instead of eating the last fish, she took it to the bottom of the pool and hid it under the rock where she had been hiding the paper. When no trainers were present, she brought the fish to the surface and used it to lure the gulls, which she would catch to get even more fish. After mastering this lucrative strategy, she taught her calf, who taught other calves, and so gull-baiting has become a hot game among the dolphins.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

It always amazes me how people can still manage to convince themselves that humans are somehow completely removed from other animals, to the point of considering animals to be "Other" and lesser somehow.

Then again, there are still people who insist evolution can't possibly be real; or who insist that the world is actually secretly flat and there's a massive global conspiracy to hide this fact from us; or who swear absolutely that one particular tribe of humans is the chosen favorite of a single particular deity among all the untold thousands worshipped in human history, who himself just so happens to somehow be the only deity which is actually real.

Too bad we can't just constantly squirt cold water in their left ears...