If you take a trip down to Australia’s Tangalooma Island Resort, you might find yourself accepting a gift in the form of a dead fish from a generous dolphin.
A new study by Bonnie J. Holmes and David T. Neil details 23 instances of wild dolphins bringing gifts to humans in the water. While the gifts might not be items of particular interest to people (dead eels, squid, tuna, etc.) the strange and wonderful idea of a wild species entering into a gift-giving relationship with a particular group of humans is pretty incredible.
Since 1992 dolphins near the resort have been offered fish by staff at dusk. In a reciprocal behavior, this is the time that dolphins have, on occasion, brought gifts to give back to the staff members. The abstract for the study considers a variety of possibilities for the reasons behind the gifts “including prey sharing, play, and teaching behaviors, which have previously been described for cetaceans and other higher mammals.”
As Tree Hugger notes, felines have also been known to bring dead prey to the doorstep of their human friends, and many primates are known for their sharing. This version of dolphin gift-giving seems almost more like a potluck meal. The dolphins just doing their part to make the nightly meal a more communal experience.
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