Are the dolphins trying to tell us something, if we would only listen? Via Aeon Magazine, Justin Gregg ponders:
The science makes one fact undeniably clear: wild dolphins of some species are noted for seeking out social encounters with humans. The phenomenon of lone sociable dolphins — for whom human contact appears to substitute for the company of their own kind — is documented extensively in the scientific literature. Among the better-known examples are Pita from Belize, Davina from England, Filippo from Italy, Tião from Brazil, and JoJo from Turks and Caicos.’
But should this kind of social contact also be considered friendly? There, the record is more ambiguous. Of the 29 well-studied dolphins just mentioned, 13 of them exhibited ‘misdirected sexual behaviour’. A number of these dolphins made a habit of abducting people — dragging them out to sea, preventing them from returning to shore, even pinning them to the seabed.
What about the long tradition of wild dolphins helping to save human swimmers from drowning — an act that seems as friendly as it gets? Alas, accounts of such episodes are almost entirely anecdotal in nature. But there is not enough evidence to evaluate the true nature of these encounters.
Perhaps the homicidal-dolphin phenomenon is more prevalent than we know. As Kathleen Dudzinski, my research supervisor at the Dolphin Communication Project, used to say: ‘You never hear from the people that the dolphins didn’t save.’
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