Friday, September 2, 2011

Conching - The Dolphin Version of a Spork?

It’s well documented that dolphins are among the smartest animals in the world, but bottlenose dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay may be taking tool use to a whole new level.
Photo: Murdoch University
The picture above shows a dolphin doing what scientists call “conching”. Basically, the dolphins will turn over these large conches on the sea floor, making an attractive habitat for small fish. Once the fish swims inside, the dolphin will carry the conch to the surface and tilt the shell back, emptying the water out and dropping the fish directly into its mouth.

Though this hunting technique has been observed for several years, the frequency at which it is happening has increased dramatically since last May, leading Murdoch University researchers to believe that more dolphins are learning how to do it from watching their friends. If this is the case, it would be the first documented case of a learned behavior spreading this quickly in marine mammals.


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