Dolphin Head Trips

In light of the new legality of recreational marijuana in Colorado I bring to you an article about dolphins using intoxicating substances.

Spy cameras used to film a new BBC documentary, Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, caught some extraordinary behavior over the past few years when they observed a group of juvenile dolphins chewing on and passing around pufferfish……….
When threatened, pufferfish can excrete a powerful neurotoxin: tetrodotoxin. The substance, which can be lethal in high doses but in smaller quantities is relatively benign, effectively blocks neurons in the brain from firing and therefore produces a narcotic effect. It is currently being investigated as a possible way to treat pain in cancer patients.

The teenage dolphins appeared to be “chewing puff,” as I’m dubbing it, for no other reason than experiencing an altered state of consciousness.

Scientists hope that noting behaviors like this will lead to more rights for dolphins. They are suggesting that recording this purposeful behavior, this deliberate use of toxins, others will realize that dolphins are clearly thinking beings that deserve rights.

This kind of behavior, then, adds further weight to a growing body of evidence that limiting what we think of as personhood to just human animals is rather arbitrary.

I completely agree. But here’s a thought experiment. We know that dolphin pods have their own cultures. What if narcotic use is a small practice but something that will spread with time. I know there is a worry in Colorado about our young people becoming less ambitious and more reliant on others as they grown into adulthood. Can something similar happen in the dolphin world?

ht Marc Bekoff

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