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Dolphins learn from their peers to use empty shells to catch fish (cell.com)
89 points by skipnup 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments

Such complex social behaviors are taught from generation to generation.

And makes even more important the need for conservation to protect pods of dolphins so that they do not lose this collective knowledge. If these pods gets destroyed, then other pods have to figure out the technique from scratch.

Apart from humans, some whales go into menopause. The evolutionary benefit is to have experienced females help raise their grandchildren and pass knowledge to them. This makes it even more important to protect older animals.

This article discusses peer (“horizontal”) learning of the technique. They distinguish this from parent-child (“vertical”) learning and older-younger non-parental (“oblique”) learning.

Certainly protection of pods is important in this case as well, but the interesting thing here is not the fact that the behavior is learned, but that it is learned from a peer. Evidently this is the first such finding in toothed whales.

The video linked in the article gives a nice overview and shows videos of different foraging techniques used by dolphins.

They also pass Puffer Fish around as a form of social recreational drug use


There was an interlude in Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years about reconstruction of early societies by their vocabulary, using reconstructed root words from Uralic:

"So we can imagine them sitting around the campfire of an evening in larger groups, making and mending tools and wraps while they swapped interesting stories of their adventures, of their friends or comrades and of the women's suitors. Sometimes people would wrangle, admonish, or curse and sometimes get high. But they also knew how to give presents and distribute goods."

I'm pretty sure female dolphins have suitors, and these friends or comrades are said to get high. Do dolphins give presents?


Do you even shell, pod-mate?

Well. That's the definition of a meme.

If only we could teach them to read and write...

We'd need to invent some sort of ink that worked underwater first.

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