January 30, 2009

Dolphins Show Chef Like Skills, Researchers Say

Dolphins are the foodies of the ocean, deemed so because of their specific and complicated measures to purge cuttlefish of ink and bone, Australian scientists announced on Friday.

A female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was seen prepping her cuttlefish for consumption in the Spencer Gulf, located in Australia.

"It's a sign of how well their brains are developed. It's a pretty clever way to get pure calamari without all the horrible bits," Mark Norman, the curator of mollusks at Museum Victoria and a research team member, said to the Canberra Times newspaper.

The dolphin research team, who published their findings in the science journal PLoS One, stated they observed more than once a female dolphin chasing cuttlefish out into a central location.

The dolphin then dispatched the cuttlefish quickly with a rapid downward thrust and a "loud click" was heard as the rigid cuttlebone broke.

The dolphin then raised the body up and struck it with her nose to bleed dry the poisonous black ink that cuttlefish uses as a defense mechanism.

The dolphin then scraped the body on the sand to clean out the remains, making the cuttlefish ready for consumption.

Norman and study co-author Tom Tregenza, from the University of Exeter, thinks that the behavior exhibited is probably not unusual.

"In addition to our observations, individual bottlenose dolphins feeding at these cuttlefish spawning grounds have been observed by divers in the area to perform the same behavioral sequence," they wrote in the study.

"The feeding behavior reported here is specifically adapted to a single prey type and represents impressive behavioral flexibility for a non-primate animal."

A different study publish in 2005 gave the first signs that dolphins may be proficient in both group learning and using tools. A mother was seen showing her daughters how to detach sea sponges and using them as protection while combing the seafloor in Western Australia.

The dolphins wore the sponges "as a kind of glove" while hunting for food, University of Zurich researcher Michael Krutzen published in the New Scientist magazine.


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