Dolphins are in the news alot lately I think it’s because as SCUBA Divers we find this intelligent and curious creature to be a friend. Or is it that we are jealous of their underwater feats.
The article from NewScientist shows how a pod of 12 dolphins tried to help a female dolphin in distress stay afloat for air. An amazing animal. Would we do the same?
Everyone’s favorite mammal just got a bit more loving. For the very first time, dolphins have now been noticed joining as much as attempt to save an injured group member. The work doesn’t suggest dolphins are selfless or could empathize with the pain of the relative, however.
In the late morning about 12 dolphins were swimming very close together. One female was in difficulties: it was wriggling and tipping sideways, often turning upside-down. Their pectoral flippers appeared to be paralyzed.
Dolphins packed around it, frequently diving beneath it and supporting it from below. After about half an hour, the dolphins formed in to an impromptu raft: they swam alongside with the wounded female on their backs. By keeping the wounded Dolphin above water, they might have helped it to breath, preventing sinking.
After still another couple of minutes a number of the dolphins left. The hurt dolphin quickly fallen right into a vertical position. The remaining dolphins seemed to take to and prop it up, perhaps to help keep its head above the water, but it soon ended breathing, say the scientists. Five dolphins remained with it and continued pressing its body, till it sank out of sight.
“It does look like quite a sophisticated way of keeping the companion up in the water,” says Karen McComb at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Such helping behaviors are only seen in intelligent, long-lived social animals. In most species, injured animals are quickly left behind.
While it may seem selfless to help an injured fellow, McComb says the helper dolphins might get some benefit. Rescuing the struggling dolphin could help maintain their group, and thus control of their territory. Furthermore, if the group contains close relatives, protecting those relatives helps the dolphins preserve their shared genes.
The simple act of working together could also bond the group more strongly. “It makes a lot of sense in a highly intelligent and social animal for there to be support of an injured animal,” McComb says.