Dolphins dig tools

By Susan Aiello • Published: March 1st, 2012
Category: Animal Airwaves

In the TV show, Flipper was trained to communicate with people and pull a boat or swimmer. But Australian researchers have discovered a group of wild dolphins that actually use tools.

In the past, scientists noticed female dolphins carrying sponges to protect their beaks while digging up the sandy ocean bottom in search of food. These Mensa mammals have now been seen conching (conk-ing), or using large shells to catch and eat fish.

Biologists aren’t sure if the dolphins set out the shells as traps, chasing fish into this apparent safe haven, or if they randomly grab shells hoping for a hidden treat. Either way, the conch gets inverted so that water strains out and fish go down the hatch.

What’s even more amazing is that both sponging and conching are learned behaviors spread from dolphin to dolphin. Call it an under-the-sea social network.