Dolphins Get High by Sucking on Puffer Fish

Bryan Nelson
January 6, 2013


If you’ve ever wondered why dolphins always appear to have permanent euphoric smiles stretched across their faces, this could offer an explanation: BBC filmmakers recently caught wild dolphins on camera getting high by chewing on a toxic pufferfish, reports Discover.

Each member of the pod of cetacean stoners appeared to gently pass the fish around after each hit, forever redefining the notion of a ‘puff pass’.

The discovery that wild animals purposely get intoxicated is nothing new. Researchers have long been aware of drunk monkeys, hallucinating porcupines, and magic mushroom-eating reindeer, for instance. But this is the first time such behavior has been directly recorded in marine mammals.

“After chewing the puffer and gently passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection,” said Rob Pilley, one of the producers of the documentary. “This was a case of young dolphins purposefully experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating.”

The event was filmed in waters near Mozambique on the southeast coast of Africa. Apparently the dolphins were observed playing with pufferfish for up to half an hour, frequently nudging the fish with their rostrums.

“We saw the dolphins handle the puffers with kid gloves, very gently and delicately like they were almost milking them to not upset the fish too much or kill it,” explained Pilley.

Read More