Effects Of Pufferfish Poison On Dolphins

Effects Of Pufferfish Poison On Dolphins

Recreational vices are not exclusive to humans – even dolphins like them!

In a BBC film showing dolphin behavior in its natural environment, dolphins are shown getting high on pufferfish. They were spotted interacting with the puffer in large numbers. Every 20 to 30 minutes, they enjoyed passing it around with other dolphins while being cautious not to break it up.

They use pufferfish venom to induce “trance-like” states. According to the “Daily News,” dolphins were reportedly observed floating beneath the water’s surface while appearing entranced by their reflections.

It was once believed that pufferfish toxin at high doses could kill, but dolphins seem to find the correct dose to produce a narcotic-like effect.

Dolphins Taking Pufferfish for a High

dolphins eat puffer fish for recreational purposes

The “Sunday Times” article by scientist and co-producer of the documentary Rob Pilley explained how adolescent dolphins “purposefully” experimented with pufferfish poison. He claimed they started acting strangely and bizarrely after eating the puffer and sharing it.

They were mesmerized by their reflections as they gazed at the surface with amazement. Underwater spy cameras were built by filmmakers and were hidden inside fake fish, turtles, and dolphins to observe dolphin behavior.

Through the spy creatures, they hoped to record their normal behavior. Such dolphin behavior was a discovery, according to Pilley. The dolphins were gentle with the pufferfish and appeared to be trying not to disturb it.

Pilley was very confident that the behavior was not unique, as the cetaceans appeared familiar with handling pufferfish toxins and that the fish released several toxins as a defense.

Toxin from Pufferfish

poisonous pufferfish eaten by man and dolphins

Pufferfish use their elastic stomachs and capacity to quickly consume vast volumes of water (and air) to render themselves inedible as a defense against predators. According to researchers, the pufferfish, also known as the blowfish, evolved its “inflatability” due to its awkward and sluggish swimming technique, which made it prey for larger fish.

Several pufferfish species have evolved spikes on their skin to make them less desirable. Predators won’t be content for long if they catch a puffer before it fills up. Most pufferfish have tetrodotoxin, a poison that may make them taste bad.

Moreover, the poison can even kill the predators attempting to eat the pufferfish. Tetrodotoxin is up to 1200 times more toxic than cyanide and can be fatal to humans. There is no antidote for pufferfish toxin, which has a deadly dose that may kill 30 adults.

Given the fish’s toxicity, it’s a scientific marvel seeing dolphins get high on pufferfish.

Observable Dolphin Play Patterns

Dolphins Bay (Wikimedia Commons)

Dolphins are naturally curious animals who like interacting with both objects and other individuals. In most dolphin tours in Johns Pass, tourists have seen dolphins leap up to 4.9 meters above the water, and when they land, they can choose to rest on their backs or bellies. They also frequently follow vessels’ bows and sterns.

Many dolphins like pursuing and diverting one another’s attention with things. They take the opportunity to reinvent themselves in the water and enjoy blowing bubbles. Other dolphins and even other animals may occasionally join in on this fun activity.

These include the Risso and Pantropical-spotted species, humpback whales, and pilot whales. They play other games only for enjoyment. It has been seen that they grab birds and consume them after lowering them several meters below the surface.

The environment of dolphins is not risk-free. Anything found close to their pod will cause dolphins to respond swiftly. After exhaling, they will hit the water with their tails before gathering closely. Any perturbation from outside the group might cause stress, harm, irregular migration, and decreased reproductive success.

Dolphins Protect Each Other

dolphins kissing

Males swim inside the boundaries of their pods to monitor the environment, communicate with other individuals about potential threats, and warn them if they are in danger. Although most dolphins steer clear of sharks or run away from them when they approach, there have been instances in which these cetaceans have killed and attacked sharks.

The frequent connection of dolphins from the same species and occasional contact with different cetacean or mammal species show how socialized they are. Dolphins are well known for their unique personalities and charisma.

They are gentle and have good social skills. They aid wounded dolphins and form close social bonds. To live and feed themselves, they also work together. There are unproven reports of dolphins gifting people fish, or occasionally squid, octopus, or fish as presents. It may be said that dolphins getting high on pufferfish is a peek of their adorably playful personality.

Key Takeaway

Tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide, says National Geographic. Even the most potent recreational drugs, like meth or cocaine, are less lethal than it. One pufferfish carries enough venom to kill 30 mature people.

Humans may be paralyzed and killed by puffer fish bites. Yet, dolphins have been observed utilizing the deadly, spiky critters as chew toys, raising the question of whether the marine mammals were experiencing any effects from the neurotoxic in the fish.


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