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Nature and Narcotics: Dolphins use Puffer Fish Toxin to Achieve Trance-like State

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Jan 02, 2014 08:46 AM EST
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A family vacationing on a Scottish island will go home with a unique story to tell after they saved 19 dolphins stranded on the beach Friday. (Photo : Flickr/ lowjumpingfrog)

A BBC video captures young dolphins getting high on puffer fish neurotoxin.

A forthcoming documentary called Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, shows young male bottlenose dolphins provoking puffer-fish to release a toxin.

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The substance in question is a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which is up to 1,200 times more potent than cyanide and a single puffer fish carries enough of this toxin to kill 30 humans. The latest video captured dolphins tricking the fish into releasing just the right amount of this toxin to achieve a trance-like state.

"This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating," Rob Pilley, a zoologist, told the Sunday Times "After chewing the puffer gently and passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection. Pilley was involved in the production of the documentary.

The documentary was made using 900 hours of footage. The scene shows the dolphins getting high on the puffer or blowfish featured in the second episode. Read more about the production of the documentary, here.

The documentary is to be aired at 8pm Thursday 2nd January, 2014 on BBC 1. Watch a trailer of the documentary below:

Not just the dolphins

Dolphins aren't the only creatures that alter their behaviour and actively seek substances to get high. According to a previous article by Steven Kotler, author and journalist, use of psychedelics is quite common in the animal kingdom. Bees get stoned by feeding on sugary sap of a lime tree  orchid nectar while goats use mushrooms to get away from the monotony of life. Then there are poisonous toads that are used as drugs by dogs.

The "flying" reindeer, too, has been linked with hallucinogen use. According to a theory, reindeers get high on a mushroom called Amanita muscaria.

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