Who knew dolphins are similar to humans in these ways, too.
Humans aren't the only ones looking for the pleasure of intoxication. Apparently, dolphins, one of the most intelligent mammals in the world, love it, too. With the use of spy cameras, researchers found some fascinating insights about these beautiful creatures.
In a 2013 BBC documentary series called Spy in the Pod, the footage revealed what appeared to be dolphins getting high off of pufferfish. But what makes it even more amazing is the fact that pufferfish release large doses of their deadly nerve toxin Tetrodotoxin as a defensive maneuver... and these dolphins seem to enjoy provoking the fish. As the documentary explains, while the toxin is fatal, in small amounts, it is known to produce a "narcotic effect." These intelligent creatures appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount, according to The Smithsonian Mag. To really put it into perspective, the nerve toxin is 1,000 times as potent as potassium cyanide.
As per The Daily News report, the dolphins were filmed gently playing with the puffer, before passing it between each other for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. They handled puffers differently and with a lot more tact than fish meant to be prey, which was swiftly torn apart. Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.
Speaking to the British Sunday Times, as per NBC News, Pilley said, "This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating ... After chewing the puffer gently and passing it around, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection. It reminded us of that craze a few years ago when people started licking toads to get a buzz, especially the way they hung there in a daze afterwards. It was the most extraordinary thing to see."
But while it's fun for the dolphin, the pufferfish, who puff up when threatened, are terrorized. And you can't help but empathize with a fish who's being thrown around like a beach ball by the dolphins. However, this behavior of playing with the fish isn't completely abnormal for these marine animals. "We’ve observed dolphins pass fish around in normal play behavior," Diana Reiss, a dolphin cognition researcher, told NBC News. As for the "getting high" bit, there are plenty of other animals who love the inebriation. Elephants get drunk on overripe fruit, bighorn sheep love narcotic lichen, and monkeys' attraction to sugar-rich and ethanol-containing fruit could explain a little about our own leaning towards alcohol.
Looks like we have more in common with other species than we realized.