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"It was like he was cross-dressing in private -- an old man out there sponging by himself."
December 27, 2008 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I, for one, welcome our new loner female, tool-using dolphin overlords.

from the article:
As best the researchers can tell, a single dolphin may have invented the technique relatively recently and taught it to her kin. The simple innovation dramatically changed their behavior, hunting habits and social life, the researchers found. Those that adopted it became loners who spend much more time on the hunt than others and dive more deeply in search of prey. The sponging dolphins teach the technique to all their young, but only the females seem to grasp the idea.
altho another article sez the technique confers no advantages. more broadly, i wonder if self-awareness is a necessary condition for tool use?
posted by kliuless (40 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Researchers were startled to realize that the dolphins of Shark Bay employed one living creature as a tool to help hunt another.

Yeah, but that's it, isn't it? Simple animals use sticks or shells as tools. Complex animals use simple animals as tools.

The dolphins are very close to discovering democracy.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:07 AM on December 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


"Oh Shit," says humanity.
posted by AV at 7:09 AM on December 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think the sponging dolphins are just doing it for style points.
posted by king dingaling at 7:26 AM on December 27, 2008


Yet another species where the majority of males are not Spongeworthy?

(Sorry).
posted by Punctual at 7:41 AM on December 27, 2008 [10 favorites]


We better stop eating tuna out of self-defense.
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2008


Not so new overlords.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:59 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Japan beware, soon they'll be torpedoing your fishing boats with tamed whalesharks.
posted by spacefire at 8:03 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Assuming we don't just wipe them out though general environmental asshattery, I think it's pretty much inevitable that we're going to end up using the fruits of prosthesis research to give dolphins brain-operated robo-arms, and then all bets are off.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2008


Males hunt in packs and don't care if they scrape their noses. Testosterone loses this round.
posted by localroger at 8:14 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Putting a sponge on your dainty nose to avoid scoffing it is a pretty female thing to do.

The thing that pisses me off is all the species they talk about that manage to use only one tool. Nobody but us humans seems to have generalized tool use from one instance to the general idea of using multiple tools and inventing new ones. STUPID ANIMALS
posted by norabarnacl3 at 8:22 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


You assume there aren't dolphins posting on MeFi?

Humanzone.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:24 AM on December 27, 2008 [9 favorites]


And dolphins know the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:50 AM on December 27, 2008


I don't really care about Dolphins using tools. They are not intelligent until they learn to inflate the auto repair bills of yuppies.
posted by srboisvert at 9:08 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The sex difference between tool-using and non-tool-using dolphins is very striking. This is fascinating food for thought with respect to the relationship between sex and gender. Thanks for posting it.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:15 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


CHICKS DIG TOOLS.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:39 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stupid dolphins.

It's interesting, though, that typically only the females continue to use to sponge tactic. Of the one documented male to continue to use it to maturity, I wonder how his hunting skillz stack up with the rest of the pod? Also, I wonder how the female calorie expended/gained ratio in pod hunts stacks up against males, in general?
posted by porpoise at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2008


Only one older male dolphin continued hunting with a sponge. "He would go get a sponge and do it privately," Dr. Mann says. "It was like he was cross-dressing in private -- an old man out there sponging by himself."

okay, that's hilarious. like the boys think it's a girly thing to do? only girls protect their delicate snouts from the rough sand? are snout scrapes a sign of virility? a disdain for injury? is it unfashionable to wear sponges on one's snout? or is it that the males like hunting in packs so much that sponge diving is just too much bother?
posted by RedEmma at 9:53 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


From RedEmma:
"okay, that's hilarious. like the boys think it's a girly thing to do? only girls protect their delicate snouts from the rough sand? are snout scrapes a sign of virility? a disdain for injury? is it unfashionable to wear sponges on one's snout? or is it that the males like hunting in packs so much that sponge diving is just too much bother?"

I'm not a marine biologist, but I'd guess it's the last one. I also found myself wondering whether the one male who was sponge-diving was homosexual. (Not trying to be funny, really.)
posted by SocialAbortion at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


So dolphins use sponges as tools and humans use dolphins as tools.
posted by Sailormom at 10:21 AM on December 27, 2008


I'm not a marine biologist, but I'd guess it's the last one. I also found myself wondering whether the one male who was sponge-diving was homosexual. (Not trying to be funny, really.)

Since male dolphins tend to be very aggressive pack hunters, and that sponge-gathering seems awfully tedious and solitary, I'd imagine it's just not ...fun. An older male dophin may not be up to full on pod-hunting anymore and find sponge-gathering easier.

Also, considering that Dolphins tend to be pan-sexual inter-species rapists, I don't you would could easily classify one as "homosexual".
posted by The Whelk at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Uh, I'd learn to balance a sponge on my nose too if it meant that I could become a lone hunter and avoid dolphin pack rape.
posted by adipocere at 10:45 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


We'll see how sophisticated they really are when she subsequently invents the concept of Intellectual Property and starts suing the hell out of all the later adopters.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:58 AM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also found myself wondering whether the one male who was sponge-diving was homosexual.

When I was a kid, some other kids told me that homosexual meant a man who thinks he's a woman and a woman who thinks she's a man. I went in and asked my mom, if this is true, why doesn't a homosexual man just marry a homosexual woman? She told me that's not what homosexual means, and those kids were idiots. I now pass this piece of wisdom on to you.
posted by carmen at 11:03 AM on December 27, 2008 [11 favorites]


Somewhere on some playground right now some kids are telling some other kid that homosexual means a dolphin who balances sponges on his beak.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:12 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was kinda disappointed that the lady dolphins weren't learning to pleasure themselves with outside tools. I'm not sure how dolphin anatomy would work like that, but I remain confident this very thing will be a headline someday.
posted by rubah at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2008


pleasure themselves with outside tools

They have frats in the dolphin world?
posted by maxwelton at 11:40 AM on December 27, 2008


Regarding the "he would get a sponge and do it privately" quote, it's important to note (as the article does) that this way of hunting is essentially a solitary one, so we should avoid projecting human social structures onto the behavior of this male dolphin. The fact that he obtained and hunted with a sponge "privately" is just part and parcel with that way of hunting. It sounds like the biologist who said this didn't have good grounds for making the analogy between the male dolphin and a human transvestite.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:56 AM on December 27, 2008


Did you know Gullible isn't on Wikipedia?

Dolphins are scary. They already murder porpoises. I fear they are so friendly and helpful only because they realize we outrank them.

For now.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:28 PM on December 27, 2008


The male bottlenose dolphins of Shark Bay may be forming packs for reasons other than hunting:

So why do males form these alliances? The answer seems to greatly reflect human behavior: to get women. Male alliances typically "herd" females for anywhere from a few minutes to months(4) These herding events are not usually enjoyed by the females. Herding is often forcible with escape events and violence involved.(3) In a herding event males will surround the female or chase her. Aggression toward the female is common and can include: hitting with the tail, head-jerks, charging, biting, or body slamming.(3) Should the female try to escape, which often happens, the males will chase her more often than not. Of course the ultimate goal of a herding event is sex and the males in the alliance will take turns to make sure everyone has an equal share. If the alliance has three members, only 2 will herd the female and the third will stay behind. However, the individual who is left behind changes with every herding event so again all members have an equal chance at mating. (3)

In short, they gang up to rape. As you might expect, considering how difficult it would seem to be for an individual male to corner and rape a female.

Not so for us primates, is it?

I wonder how much of the selection pressure which produced these things we call hands came from the fact that they can facilitate rape by a solitary male.
posted by jamjam at 2:30 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: click click squee, clickity click squeeee whiiiirrrr click, squee.
posted by not_on_display at 2:53 PM on December 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dolphins are jerks.
posted by brundlefly at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2008


A Porpoise-Driven Life.
posted by Danf at 5:53 PM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Lady Cortez-Lee and Lord Galliano-Lee put on their suits and descend to to the Diplomatic Chamber. They're both pretty tired, the Lord had spent the entire afternoon with the Apaic Alliance Of West Africa and the Lady spent literally 3 days listening to the Pacific Kings sing of problems and status, and the new laws concerning krill production and farming.

While the Pacfic , or Bayleen Kings are vital to to the Free Atlantic food industry, they are ....awfully musty, and tradition demands a a full 78-hour discussion. In Whalesong. No Breaks. So she was understandably tired ....which may account for the problems and the chaos of later, but we'll never know, will we? Anyway they arrive at Chambers with Princess Ee and Master Oeeo at around 13 Hour Nova Honolulu Time.


It started off fine, the Delphic Empire is still very segragated, so Lady Cortez-Lee spoke only to Princess Ee and Lord Gallinao-Lee spoke only to Master Oeeo. It is not known what, exactly, was discussed, the records have been lost. But ..after the ritual offering of Salmon and Beef, Princess Ee became very upset and refused to ackowledge the authority of Lady Cortez-Lee. Master Oeeo was, as far as we know, alone with Lord Galliano-Lee at the Chambers.

According to news, Princess Ee was so upset at the Lady's proposal of a Mid-Atlantic farming ridge agreement that she stormed out of the meeting. Other reports say that Lady Cortez mentioned the sponge on the Princesss' nose and made a ..very dirty comment in Delphic about it and this caused the Princess to cut her oxygen tube and almost Kill Lady Cortez-Lee. The Lord was unable to be reached, but gossip says he was caught in mid activity with Master Oeeo. The kind of action strictly frowned upon in the Diplomatic cores. Other reports say they just had an argument, and still shared the Beef Offering.

It doesn't really matter. We all have to live with the results. The Tuna farms are a mess, the a blockade of Shrimp, and our own Chicken Farms are hurting. The Delphic Empire's new found lust for "traditional" food and boycott of "Land Fish" really hurt our own farmers. Actual out and out war would be impossible, of course, the Deep Ones would make sure of that, but the Apaic Alliance are getting upset and trying to get the Corvids to join in, but thankfully, the Corvids aren't big joiners.
posted by The Whelk at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


wow, so gang raping seems to be a mammalian thing.
posted by liza at 6:19 PM on December 27, 2008


wait, there's an uplift prequel?
posted by kliuless at 6:33 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dolphins hate it when people anthropomorphize them.
posted by dirty lies at 2:03 AM on December 28, 2008


wow, so gang raping seems to be a mammalian thing.

Ducks also gang rape. Quite something to see when you go for a walk in a idyllic park.
posted by srboisvert at 5:15 AM on December 28, 2008


So, gang raping seems to be a thing thing.
posted by brundlefly at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2008


"It speaks to this whole issue of creativity and learning and brain size," she [Dr. Janet Mann] says. "The number one question that drives me and others is, Why do dolphins have such big brains? What are they doing down there in the water that requires them to be so smart?"

Talking to each other. Duh.
posted by wobh at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2008


Intelligence in the Animal Kingdom
posted by kliuless at 8:18 AM on December 31, 2008


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