Dolphin "Chef" Follows Cuttlefish Recipe

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
January 28, 2009

A wild dolphin has been observed following a specific recipe for preparing a mollusk meal, even stripping the animal of its internal shell and beating it free of ink, a new study says.

The female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was seen repeatedly catching, killing, and preparing giant cuttlefish, which are relatives of octopuses and squid.

The creatures spawn in huge numbers in South Australia's Upper Spencer Gulf. (See a map of southern Australia.)

"It's an example of quite sophisticated behavior," said study co-author Tom Tregenza, a research fellow at the University of Exeter.

Despite their lack of limbs, dolphins have developed clever ways to use their snouts, Tregenza noted.

"A dolphin is like a genius trapped in the body of a fish."

(Related: "Dolphins Name Themselves With Whistles, Study Says" [May 8, 2006].)

Meal Prep

In 2003 and 2007, the same dolphin (identified by the circular scars on its head) was filmed underwater prepping its meal by researchers Mark Norman and Julian Finn of Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

The female herded a cuttlefish to the seafloor, pinned it with her snout, and thrusted downward, breaking the cuttlefish's internal shell, or cuttlebone, and instantly killing it.

The dolphin then raised the dead body into the water and beat it with her snout, draining its ink.

Next the prey was returned to the seafloor, where the dolphin scraped it along the sand to strip off its bone.

Continued on Next Page >>




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