Dolphins Gather, Get High

Mammals hooked on puffer's toxin

dolphin mines swimmers central command

A new documentary film shows dolphins sharing a buzz-inducing nerve toxin.     Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia

A new BBC One documentary includes scenes showing dolphins thoughtfully squeezing an unidentified species of puffer fish to release its nerve toxin, then pass the dead fish between other marine mammals. After a short while, the dolphins enter a trance-like state.

"This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating," Rob Pilley, a zoologist and series producer, told The Sunday Times. "They began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection."

Most poisonous puffers contain the nerve toxin tetrodotoxin, which can be fatal to humans in doses as small as one to four milligrams per person. In Japan, where the puffer fish is a delicacy, misprepared servings inadvertently become the last meal of two to three people every year. In small amounts it produces a narcotic effect similar to "toad smoking": licking psychoactive toads for the hallucinogenic venom they produce.

SEE ALSO: Talk to Me: Dolphins communicate with each other, but can they communicate with us?

The documentary series, Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, is produced by award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer. The film features more than 900 hours of candid dolphin footage captured by spy cameras hidden in a decoy turtles, fish, and squid. The upshot is more insight into dolphin behavior, and the revelation of even more human-like traits. Gathering to get high can now be added to other dolphin behavior, such as masturbation, using tools, and communicating with speech.

Footage of the spy cameras in action

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