Dolphins' Hunting Tools Mostly Used by Females

Dolphin moms pass skills on to daughters; males do their own thing
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2008 12:44 PM CST
Dolphins' Hunting Tools Mostly Used by Females
Sea otters are one of the few marine mammals to use tools. They smash abalone shells with rocks in order to get at the meat inside.   (©mikebaird)

Beside humans, few other animals use tools to get their everyday chores done. Even fewer of them are marine mammals, so researchers in Australia were surprised to catch bottlenose dolphins employing conical sponges to dig in the seafloor. Mostly female dolphins use the snout-protectors, and only if their mothers showed them how, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Marine biologists think the behavior can be traced back to a single, recent innovator who realized that her nose fit nicely in the empty cone of a sea sponge. Since dolphin babies spend 8 years nursing with their mother, use of the sponge appears to be more due to nurture than nature. Still, it’s unclear why most males eschew the tools. (More marine biology stories.)

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