At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold on to any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean.
Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of the paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on. This behavior is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realized that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans.
Her cunning has not stopped there. One day, when a gull flew into her pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and then gave it to them. It was a large bird so the trainers gave her lots of fish. This seemed to give Kelly a new idea. The next time she was fed, instead of eating the last fish, she took it to the bottom of the pool and hid it under the rock where she had been hiding the paper. When no trainers were present, she brought the fish to the surface and used it to lure the gulls, which she would catch and get even more fish. After mastering this lucrative strategy, she taught her calf, who taught other calves, and so gull-baiting has become a hot game among the dolphins.
Behavioral studies have suggested dolphins, especially Bottlenose dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self, and can think about the future. They are able to recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies - an ability thought only to great apes and humans.
They are cultural animals in that they learn very quickly from each other. Dolphins living off the coast of Western Australia learned to hold sponges over their snouts to protect themselves when searching for spiny fish on the ocean floor.
And I won't even go into the some of the spiritual beliefs in this post. Suffice it to say these animals may very well be something more than mere humans.
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