Skip to main content

Researchers Find Hints of Dolphin Culture, Social Network Tendencies

Curiouser and curiouser!

Does anyone else ever get the feeling that dolphins just have the best of it? Aside from us destroying their environment (which is kind of a bummer), dolphins just seem kind of like what humans might be like if we just let everything go and relaxed. They’re already similar to us in some pretty striking ways; they even have genes that are homologous with humans. Now, new research is suggesting that dolphins may also form what we humans call “cliques,” and all based on what kind of functional fashion their fellow dolphins are wearing.

Recommended Videos

Many female dolphins wear marine basket sponges on their nose–it’s a convenient tool with which to scour sandy places for fish. It is also, for some dolphins, a fashion status symbol of sorts. According to researchers, the dolphins whose noses are frequently adorned with sponges (spongers, as they are called) associate more with each other than with dolphins who don’t use the tool. Bare noses are just so last season.

Behavioral biologist Janet Mann of Georgetown University was initially surprised by these findings; spongers are for the most part solitary, and were not thought to have much interest in having a social life. But, like with any teen comedy with the prerequisite makeover sequence, give someone the right accessories and there are no limits to the social heights to which they can soar. Mann and her colleagues have been observing the dolphins for 22 years now, and according to Mann they have discovered a pattern: “it seemed [the spongers] were going out of their way to hang out with other spongers.”

The sponger legacy is a hunting tactic that is rather complex, and passed down from mother to offspring–and it is notable that such a socially learned behavior is what is drawing these dolphins together even when they’re not related. It’s one of those things that was considered a very human thing to do.

Basically, it’s a cultural first in the animal kingdom. Now we just have to wait for the animated dolphin version of Mean Girls.

(via Yahoo News)

(Image via Digital Trends)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]


Alanna Bennett
Alanna is a pop culture writer who works as the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, an entertainment writer for Bustle, and a freelancer for everywhere. She has a lot of opinions about Harry Potter and will 100% bully you into watching the shows that she loves. Don't worry, it's a sign of friendship.

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue: