dolphins
by Ali Berman
Categories: Animals, Science.

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.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at aliberman.com. In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

View all posts by Ali Berman →