Dolphins Are Man’s Best Aquatic Friend

Dolphins

Dolphins are truly man’s best aquatic friend and there are plenty of reasons why. For starters, they are widely regarded as being the second most intelligent creatures on the planet after humans. Not only this, but there are many accounts of dolphins protecting people who are swimming in the ocean from natural threats and predators.

One such story is about a dolphin named Filippo that saved a young girl from drowning after she fell out of her father’s boat near Italy. Another tale recounts a pod (a group of dolphins) fighting off a shark that was attacking a surfer who couldn’t get away in time. And finally, there is even a documented case of dolphins  preemptively stopping a shark attack from taking place by barring swimmers from going any further into the water by forming a dolphin-barricade. Is it any wonder that these beloved sea creatures are man’s best aquatic friend?

Dolphins have vanity. Well, perhaps not exactly vanity but they are one of the very few creatures who inhabit Earth with the capability to recognize themselves in a mirror. Most animals that see a reflection of themselves simply believe they are seeing another animal. Countless YouTube videos of dogs barking at intruders (themselves) in mirrors support this fact. A report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  from the early 2000’s discusses dolphins’ ability to do just this. It details that dolphins were not only able to recognize themselves, but could additionally recognize changes to their bodies by detecting and observing ‘sham marks’ placed on them by scientists.

Much like many other creature that humans love, dolphins have their own set of quirks which are unique to their species. Man’s best aquatic friend has a playful nature and one which people could very easily mistake for “showing off.” They have been known to swim alongside ships, using synchronized movements in a practice that scientists refer to as bow-riding. The theory is that much like birds who ride the winds to conserve energy, dolphins ride the forward momentum of the waves produced by boats for the same type of effect. The YouTube video below demonstrates a pod of dolphins behaving in exactly this way off the side of a cruise ship departing from St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Finally, dolphins interact incredibly well with one another. They live in pods that range in size from five to 500 and will rarely separate themselves from their own pod. Not only do they hunt for fish with other dolphins from their pod, but they have also been observed caring for the sick, elderly and injured of their pods. They also play with other members of their pods and are often swim in sync with these same dolphins as well. This type of social behavior is more common towards intelligent species.

But not all information about man’s best aquatic friend has been positive. Recent reports have indicated that Japanese fishermen have killed at least 41 dolphins and taken another 52 captive. The fishermen hid themselves from activists in the area by raising a tarpaulin which stopped the activists from witnessing the final killing portion of this annual Japanese hunt. Despite opposition from the U.S., Japan has responded that the practice is legal and dolphins are not endangered.

By Jonathan Holowka

Sources:
Discovery News
Listverse
National Geographic
Defenders
Dolphins World
Time World