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Dolphins form life raft to help dying friend

sea of japan cetacean research institute delphinus capensis

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#1 Hum

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 18:18

For the first time, dolphins have been spotted teaming up to try to rescue an injured group member. The act does not necessarily mean dolphins are selfless or can empathise with the pain of their kin, however.

Kyum Park of the Cetacean Research Institute in Ulsan, South Korea, and colleagues were surveying cetaceans in the Sea of Japan in June 2008. They spent a day following a group of about 400 long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis).

In the late morning they noticed that about 12 dolphins were swimming very close together. One female was in difficulties: it was wriggling and tipping from side to side, sometimes turning upside-down. Its pectoral flippers seemed to be paralysed.

The other dolphins crowded around it, often diving beneath it and supporting it from below. After about 30 minutes, the dolphins formed into an impromptu raft: they swam side by side with the injured female on their backs. By keeping the injured female above water, they may have helped it to breathe, avoiding drowning.

After another few minutes some of the helper dolphins left. The injured dolphin soon dropped into a vertical position. The remaining helpers appeared to try and prop it up, possibly to keep its head above the surface, but it soon stopped breathing, say the researchers. Five dolphins stayed with it and continued touching its body, until it sank out of sight.

"It does look like quite a sophisticated way of keeping the companion up in the water," says Karen McComb at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Such helping behaviours are only seen in intelligent, long-lived social Movie Camera animals. In most species, injured animals are quickly left behind.

While it may seem selfless to help an injured fellow, McComb says the helper dolphins might get some benefit. Rescuing the struggling dolphin could help maintain their group, and thus control of their territory. Furthermore, if the group contains close relatives, protecting those relatives helps the dolphins preserve their shared genes.

The simple act of working together could also bond the group more strongly. "It makes a lot of sense in a highly intelligent and social animal for there to be support of an injured animal," McComb says.

The act of helping also seems to suggest that the dolphins understand when others are suffering, and can even empathise: that is, imagine themselves in the place of the suffering dolphin. But while this is possible, McComb says the helping behaviour could evolve without the need for empathy.

There have been reports of single dolphins helping others, generally mothers helping their calves, but no cases of groups of dolphins working together to help another. Dolphins have also been seen interacting with the corpses of dead dolphins, which some researchers interpret as a form of mourning.

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#2 Growled

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 02:03

Dolphins are such smart creatures. Sometimes I wish humans were more like them.

#3 OP Hum

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:15

^ We'll catch up. ;)

#4 +Nik L

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:32

Dolphins are such smart creatures. Sometimes I wish humans were more like them.


There's evidence of dolphins bullying and killing each other for no given reason. I'd say they're catching us up...

#5 Scorbing

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:38

Dolphins are extremely intelligent. They have a natural curiosity for Humans. They like us and there has been many documented cases where Dolphins have helped Humans who were drowning.

Here's another interesting case, video taped, of a Dolphin seeking help from a diver to remove a fishing line from his fin. Very interesting.

http://www.nzherald....jectid=10861374

#6 OP Hum

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:43

There's evidence of dolphins bullying and killing each other for no given reason. I'd say they're catching us up...


Only the ones possessed by the devil.

#7 Brandon

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:47

Dolphins are also the only other animal to have sex for pleasure...

#8 OP Hum

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 14:50

^ I think my cats do too. :shifty:

#9 Growled

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 02:40

^ I think my cats do too. :shifty:


That's wishful thinking on your part. :D

#10 jnelsoninjax

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 02:45

So long and thanks for all the fish!

#11 *RedBull*

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 18:57

^ I think my cats do too. :shifty:

It's OK to love your cats but not to LOVE your cats Hum.....

#12 Nothing Here

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 19:04