Friday, May 13, 2011

Non-idle flippers

From The Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Richard C. Connor,Ph.D, and Dawn Mickelthwaite Peterson. It's turned out to be a pretty absorbing read.

Most young mammals love to play and cetaceans are no exception. Of course few things in this world are free and some young cetaceans preoccupied with their games must pay the price of increased vulnerability to predators. Atlantic spotted dolphins are most vulnerable between the ages of three and five years old, a time when they are feeling quite independent and apt to take their sport far away from the watchful eye of older dolphins. Perhaps as a result, many of them wear scars from shark bites.

Despite the risks, it would probably be more costly for the young cetaceans to forgo their fun, for it is during playtime that youngsters experiment with new behaviors. Skills are practived and in time perfected, relationships with peers are solidified, and one's place becomes etched in the social hierarchy. In essence, cetaceans learn, through their play, what they need to know in order to survive their environment. Scientists who have had the pleasure of watching them at playare constantly amazed by the creativity these animals invest in their fun.

In the early days of oceanaria, bottlenose dolphins often shared their tanks with a variety of fish and other marine life and tormenting these animated toys was always a favorite dolphin pastime. Turtles were good for pushing across the tank, a pelican floating on the surface could be surprised from below and its feather plucked for toys, and fish and eels could be chased and toyed around. Male bottlenose dolphins are notorious for their sexual play. In 1956, researchers noted that the two male bottlenose dolphins at the Marineland of the Pacific would attempt to mate with anything and everything animate, including skates, rays, turtles, sharks, and moray eels. During public shows, it proved somewhat embarassing when Frankie and Floyd would ignore the show routine and try to mate with a struggling moray eel.

Children--and not just children--are more apt to learn new skills and absorb knowledge in the context of fun. This is apparently not limited to humans, either. This is logical. Our intellect is mighty in the aggregate, but the individual parts not unique to us.

Also, if you have any friends who like to rub their dicks on everything, check their foreheads because they may be part dolphin. Yeah, tread carefully around those sharks, Frankie and Floyd.


susan said...

A corollary to this is the worrisome habit developed by so many American parents to always have their children close and supervised. It tends to keep young people in an infantalized state they may have difficulty outgrowing.

Ben said...

You're probably very much right about that. I think I know some adults who were oversupervised as children. They can't really break out of that pattern.