Strange Science: The Machinations of Dolphins

DolphinIt’s well known that dolphins are quite intelligent, but did you know that they have been known to show forethought, an understanding of delayed gratification, and even planning?

In 1993, a dolphin at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi named Kelly learned that bringing litter to her keepers would earn her fish. So she started saving the litter, tearing off small pieces, and exchanging them for fish, since she was given the same number of fish whether the piece of litter was small or large.

The dolphins were also rewarded for bringing seagulls to their keepers. The dolphin in question started saving the fish that she earned for bringing litter to the keepers, and then used those fish to lure in seagulls, reaping a larger reward when she brought the seagull to her keepers.

As a followup, Brian Kinzel, a friend to MSJ, contacted the director at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, who informed him that Kelly is still alive and well today, though she is no longer in captivity. Kelly the dolphin currently resides in the Bahamas and is in her 40s!

If it weren’t for the fact that they’re kinda cute, they might be downright terrifying. But we, for one, welcome our new dolphin overlords.

You can read more about these dolphins and their tricks at The Guardian (though the article is from 2003) and in National Geographic Kids Chapters: My Best Friend is a Dolphin.


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