Last week we swam with dolphins! In between dive one and two, we found them playing in the waves. They are beautiful, nimble, seemingly light-hearted, and crazy fast–just remarkable creatures. They seem to enjoy swimming with our boat the most – they soared around the bow and while it looked quite dangerous, they seem to have fun. We jumped in the water and watched them play.
One of my favorite movie quotes is from The Life Aquatic when Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou is describing his ship and shows the two dolphins with cameras swimming around the vessel while being pet by a diver. “Two albino scouts swim with the ship. They are supposedly very intelligent, though I haven’t seen any evidence of it.” In the 2005 movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the dolphin performance of “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” is yet another reference to dolphin intelligence. The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program actually trains dolphins to detect, locate and mark mines.
The article Deep Thinkers from The Guardian describes one instance of dolphin ingenuity:
“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 is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She knowsthat 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.”
Happy Orange Suggestion: Watch dolphins play in their natural environment – so freaking awesome!