5 Comments »Posted on Saturday 31 January 2009 at 5:04 pm by Jacob Aron
In Biology

ResearchBlogging.org

Dolphins are such fascinating creatures, it’s no wonder that I’ve talked about their antics before. Yesterday, I learnt that in addition to their other many talents, dolphins are apparantly adept chefs as well.

Yes that’s right – chefs. Scientist from Australia and Britain observing dolphins in the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia were stunned to see a female bottlenose dolphin catch a cuttlefish and then prepare it to make it more edible.

The dolphin cookbook.
The dolphin cookbook

Drs Julian Finn, Tom Tregenza and Mark Norman describe the procedure in a paper published in the PLoS ONE journal, which includes some pictures as well as the rather charming diagram on the right.

The nautical Nigella chases her prey out from the seaweed and over a sandy patch of the seabed (A), before trapping it with her snout and then killing it with a sharp downward thrust produced by a beat of her tail (B). To remove the cuttlefish’s defensive ink she lifts up her meal (C) and shakes it until all traces are removed (D), and as a final preparation scrapes the fish on the sand to remove any hard and inedible bones (E) before tucking in (F).

This same dolphin’s culinary skills have been observed in both 2003 and 2007, when she was seen preparing a total of seven cuttlefish so the team are sure that this more than a one off. Other dolphins in the area are also reported to exhibit similar behaviour – suggesting that the dolphins may be teaching the technique to each other. Delia watch out – now the dolphins can cook.

Julian Finn, Tom Tregenza, Mark Norman (2009). Preparing the Perfect Cuttlefish Meal: Complex Prey Handling by Dolphins PLoS ONE, 4 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004217


  1. 5 Comments

  2. Other dolphins in the area are also reported to exhibit similar behaviour – suggesting that the dolphins may be teaching the technique to each other.

    Are we sure that they haven’t been doing that all along? That is, can we be sure that this dolphin came up with this herself and taught it to others, as opposed to being something dolphins have done for millions of years and that we’ve only just now observed?

    By Paper Hand on Sunday 1 February, 2009 at 1:02 am

  3. This is a fascinating study, and has been widely covered. I like that porpoises can be poissoniers, too.

    By Mike Haubrich, FCD on Sunday 1 February, 2009 at 1:23 am

  4. Just a thought – has anyone ever obverved what Dolphins do when they have a hot spring available?

    By Fischer on Sunday 1 February, 2009 at 10:38 am

  5. I just want to make sure you know about the Japanese dolphin drives, all dolphin lovers should know about this, a grousome scene, but we all need to know about it to make a change

    if you don’t know, google “japanese dolphin drives”

    By Davie on Monday 9 March, 2009 at 8:26 am

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