Dolphins Get High With a Little Help From Their Friends

Young dolphins chew on and pass around pufferfish who produce a neurotoxin

Posted Jan 03, 2014

"Chewing Puff"

What a way to begin 2014. First we learn about dogs who poop and pee aligned with the Earth's magnetic field and now spy cameras used to film a new BBC documentary called Dolphins: Spy in the Pod show that dolphins get high on pufferfish. To wit, "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' ... for no other reason than experiencing an altered state of consciousness."

We know that dolphins are very smart and emotional beings and many people, including researchers, view dolphins as persons and have vehemently argued that dolphins deserve much more protection than they now have. In 2013 India designated dolphins as "non-human persons" and banned their use for public entertainment anywhere in the country. 

We are not exceptional in getting high with a little help from our friends

Once again claims about human exceptionalism are shown to be misleading (see "We Are Animals and Therein Lies Hope for a Better Future"). The final paragraph of the above report makes for very interesting reading: "It is hoped that in the next few years evidence like the 'dolphins doing drugs' meme will be so startlingly incontrovertible that policy makers will no longer be able to ignore the issue of cetacean rights. Though, it has to be said, on the day those deserved rights are afforded, it would be nice if the dolphins aren’t completely stoned."

Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating lives of the other animals with whom we share our magnificent planet. 

The teaser image can be seen here.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson; see also), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (see also)and Why dogs hump and bees get depressed (see also).