Dolphins help their dying friend

After the video showing a dolphin going to divers for help I was glad to hear about a similar story from the BBC, a group of dolphins helping one of their own. This is special for a number of reasons. Dolphins have been recorded helping other dolphins but usually it was only one or two dolphins, this incident involved a number of individuals. Also this was observed and recorded by scientists who had been surveying cetaceans (cetaceans are marine mammals) in the area. The incident happened off the coast of Korea in 2008 but was only recently published in a scientific journal. I’m not sure why the delay but it is rather convenient for me. The paper is here but access is restricted.

During one of their trips the scientists noticed a group of dolphins crowded around a wriggling dolphin. When they came closer they noticed that the wriggling dolphin appeared to have a reddened belly and that it’s flippers appeared to be paralysed, although there were no other signs of injury. The group of dolphins surrounding it seemed to be helping it keep it’s balance, by supporting it from the sides, as well as keeping it afloat by pushing it up from below. The dolphins maintained the raft formation for a few minutes, constantly switching out to keep the troubled one afloat, until a number of them had abandoned it and it was floating vertically. At that point it seemed as though the dolphin was dead. About five of the other dolphins still stayed with it for a while, rubbing against it and blowing bubbles until it eventually sank.

The researchers do not know what happened to the dead dolphin as they were unable to retrieve the body but they suggest that the other dolphins were indeed trying to help their pod-mate. I find this interesting because it shows something beyond the mere intelligence that we know of. It suggests that dolphins do help one another and perhaps then care for each other. I also found the timing to be excellent, just after we see a dolphin going to divers for help we see a group of dolphins supporting one of their own. Not only that but both events have been documented on film. While the research paper is restricted some of the video of the event has been made available by New Scientist. You can watch the clip below.


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