Bottlenose Dolphins and Humpback Whales Share their Spirit and Intelligence to Make Up a New Game

by Carolyn Sotka


Image of a bottlenose dolphin and humpback whale ‘playing’. Photo by Lori Mazzuca. Marine Mammal Biologist at US Navy SPAWAR Systems Centre Pacific.

Watching YouTube videos about interspecies friendships, such as a dog and an elephant, makes everyone’s heart melt. There is something so sweet about animals connecting to one another, even if they typically assume the role of predator and prey in the wild or other settings. But one fairly unusual pairing has caught the interest of whale watchers and scientists in Hawaii.

Over the last several years, there have been sightings of bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales interacting to the delight of the observers. Thought to be a form of play by experts, these highly intelligent animals seem to have devised a game of ‘hang on and slide’. The game involves the dolphin, hanging onto the rostrum of the whale for as long as possible and then sliding down into the water.

Video from the American Natural History Museum.

Perhaps this rare behavior was sparked by the experience of dolphins riding the bow waves of a boat. Whatever the reason, it is a big ocean after all and playmates among cetaceans are few and far between. -CS

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