Wild dolphins learn to walk on water

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  1. By Paul Eccleston

    Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 19/08/2008

    A wild dolphin may have passed on the skill of 'tail-walking' she witnessed during a brief period in captivity.

    Normally it is a skill taught to captive dolphins who perform for the public.

    But scientists were stunned to see it used by a group of wild dolphins who live in waters off Adelaide on the south Australian coast.

    They believe Billie, a female bottlenose dolphin, may have picked up the trick - where a dolphin rises vertically to the surface and uses its powerful tail to drive itself backwards - in a dolphinarium.

    In the early 1980s she was rescued sick and malnourished from a marina where she had become trapped. She was kept in a concrete enclosure at a dolphinarium and was nursed back to health before being released back into the wild.

    But it seems that during her brief stay she may have watched other dolphins performing tail-walking and picked up the skill herself and passed it on to other dolphins in her group.

    Dr Mike Bossley, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) in Australia said: "I have observed all the local dolphins over a number of years, and have watched Billie occasionally performing tail-walks in the years since her release, sometimes in the bow wave of large ships, which is an awesome sight!

    "About five years ago another female dolphin called Wave began performing the same behaviour, but does so with much greater regularity than Billie. A third adult female dolphin has also been seen tail-walking."

    The scientists are trying to work out whether the behaviour might be a form of play or communication, and whether it is likely other members of the dolphin group will inherit the tail-walking knack.

    "If tail-walking is a true cultural behaviour, it will gradually spread through the local population, probably by being adopted by youngsters.

    "WDCS will maintain its quiet, non-invasive observations of these enigmatic animals and continue to document the behaviour of these wild, free dolphins." said Dr Bossley.
    "These are things that groups develop and are passed between individuals and that come to define those groups, such as language or dancing; and it would seem that among the Port River dolphins we may have an incipient tail-walking culture."

    Cathy Williamson, anti-captivity campaigner for WDCS said: "This behaviour by the Adelaide dolphins demonstrates their intelligence and is even more proof that these animals are unsuitable for confinement in captivity, where they are unable to express natural behaviour or form normal social groups with other animals."


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  2. Wow..Very interesting! I adore dolphins:love: Thanks for posting this :smile:
  3. I can't help to think about the book in the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" series, "Goodbye and Thanks for the Fish!" :lol:
  4. Haha! Now I'm thinking about that Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode where dolphins take over the land and banish the people Springfield to the sea.

    Bart: It's approaching the podium!
    Mel: Surely it cannot speak!
    Snorky: (In high child's voice) Snorky... talk... man...
    (Snorky clears his throat and reverts to deep male voice.)
    Snorky: I'm sorry, let me start over. Eons ago, dolphins lived on the land.
    Moe: What did he say?
    Carl: He said years ago, dolphins lived on the land.
    Moe: What!?
    Snorky: Then your ancestors drove us into the sea, where we suffered for millions of years.
    Marge: But you seemed so happy in the ocean. All that playful leaping--
    Snorky: We were trying to get out! It's cold, it's wet, every morning I wake up phlegmy.
    Lisa: Plus all that sewage we keep dumping.
    Snorky: That was you?
    Homer: It was her alright. Take the one who wronged you!

    Homer: I'm not gonna let a few hoop-jumping tuna-munchers push me around!
  5. I love dolphins. They are so smart.