Image: Oasis HD/YouTube
A viral video emerged last month that showed a bottlenose dolphin, tangled up in fishing line, request and receive help from human divers in Hawaii. But lest anyone dismiss dolphins as lazy moochers, a similar video is now making the rounds — only this time, dolphins are the ones that appear to exhibit interspecies altruism.
The clip below was filmed off the coast of Mexico's Isla Guadalupe, where a Canadian film crew encountered a baby elephant seal struggling to swim. The pup had drifted into shallow waters near a beach, but had trouble swimming away due to a strong shoreward current. That's when a group of three bottlenose dolphins showed up, nudging and coaxing the seal until it finally managed to swim away on its own volition.
Check out the video below, courtesy of Canada's Oasis HD:
Of course, it's impossible to know the dolphins' exact intentions; they may have just been curious. But this wouldn't be the first evidence of such bottlenosed benevolence.
There have been assorted reports in recent years of the marine mammals saving people from sharks, as well as nonhuman rescues like the 2011 recovery of a drowning Doberman and a 2008 operation to save stranded pygymy sperm whales. Scientists have been examining the issue for decades — a 1982 study on dolphin social structures, for example, asserted that "the very scattered and often anecdotal literature on dolphins suggests the existence of a system based to a considerable degree on reciprocal altruism."
And just last year, Emory University neuroscientist Lori Marino told the Associated Press that dolphins' social intelligence bears similarities to that of monkeys, apes and even humans. "They understand concepts like zero, abstract concepts," she said. "They do everything that chimpanzees do and bonobos can do. The fact is that they are so different from us and so much like us at the same time."
Related animal intelligence stories on MNN:
- Hawaii dolphin rescue caught on video
- Do dolphins mourn their dead?
- Bonobos buy friends with bananas