Jan 30, 2009

Science - Bottlenose dolphins 'have amazing butchery and culinary skills'

London, Jan 29 (ANI): Bottlenose dolphins make for impressive butchers, say Australian researchers, who have observed how the playful sea-mammals use precise series of drills to kill, gut and bone a cuttlefish.

The dolphins make use of a six-step procedure to get rid of the invertebrate's unappetising ink and hard-to-swallow cuttlebone.

"The behaviour seems so obviously related to making the item more palatable," New Scientist quoted Tom Tregenza, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Exeter, UK, as saying.

It was Tregenza's colleague Julian Finn, a marine biologist at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, who observed a single female dolphin performing the underwater move in 2003 and again in 2007, while he was studying mating in cuttlefish.

The dolphin begins her feat by shooing a cuttlefish out of an algal forest into an open patch of the seabed before pinning it down and ramming it into the ground.

For getting rid of the ink, she uses her snout to pick up the cuttlefish, and then shakes it several times until a black cloud streams out

Finally, the dolphin grinds the cuttlefish along the sea floor to break and release its bone.

"There's an interesting cracking noise which you can hear. The cuttlefish bone pops out like a bar of soap," and dinner is served, said Tregenza, who has only seen the performance on video.

He added: "My guess would be that if we spent more time under water with dolphins and cuttlefish, we'd see other dolphins doing it."

It was shown that female dolphins teach their offspring to wield sea sponges like a shield when they are hunting fish, and usually it's the daughters who are more eager to learn the skill than sons.

The researchers also speculated that the first dolphin might have acquired its skills while playing.

"Play is a way of trying things out, and if they work, they do them again," said Tregenza. (ANI)

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