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Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'

Dolphins are said to share the human traits of bravery, jealousy and even a sense of humour. But i...

Dolphins are said to share the human traits of bravery, jealousy and even a sense of humour.

But it seems they share some worrying vices as well.

Scientists were amazed at footage of the mammals apparently getting 'high' with the help of a toxic puffer fish.

 Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'
Seaworld sillies: Dolphins have been filmed eating toxic puffer fish, which when digested in small doses can have a 'narcotic-like effect'

In an extraordinary scene filmed for a new TV series, the dolphins are shown gently passing the fish between them. Experts believe the creatures are using the toxins, which emerge from the puffer fish as part of its defence mechanism, for their own enjoyment.

They nudge the fish with their snouts and as the toxin is released into the water, they seem to lapse into a trance-like state.

At one point the dolphins are seen floating just underneath the water's surface, apparently mesmerised by their own reflections.

The dolphins were filmed gently playing with the puffer, passing it between each other for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, unlike the fish they had caught as prey which were swiftly torn apart.

The footage, from a forthcoming BBC1 show called Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, was taken by wildlife filmmaker John Downer – who has previously used hidden cameras to bring the secrets of penguin colonies to television screens.

Mr Downer designed underwater cameras disguised as squid, tuna and even other dolphins.

 Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'

Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.

He added: '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.

'As a result the fish released various toxins as a defence.

'The dolphins then seemed to be mesmerised.'

He insisted that the scene couldn't have been a one-off encounter, saying: 'The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care.'

WATCH THE VIDEO:


The BBC1 series follows the success of Penguins: Spy In the Huddle, which used similar tactics of disguised cameras, documentary producer Mr Downer was eager to create a range of cameras disguised as sea creatures to offer viewers unprecedented proximity to their favourite species.

As well as the Dolphincam, the Tunacam, Turtlecam and Squidcam have also been created for different spying roles, with each fitted with HD cameras to capture life under the sea.

With the help of the cameras, viewers can watch a mother teaching her calf to catch fish and leap from water, as well as finding themselves at the centre of huge megapods with thousands of dolphins swimming around them at once.

 Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'
Hundreds of hours of filming were put into the programme which will be narrated by David Tennant. Some 900 hours of raw footage collected over a year from around the world including America, Coasta Rica, South Africa, Argentina and Australia. The puffer fish footage was filmed in waters near Mozambique.

The film crew also dived some 1,500 times, spending nearly 3,000 hours at sea filming with the Spy Creatures in all types of weather.
 Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'
 Dolphins Filmed Chewing Toxic Puffer Fish 'To Enjoy Narcotic-like Effects'

Speaking of the project, Mr Downer said: 'Unlike Penguin-cams, this time our spy creatures had to keep pace with fast-moving dolphins, often out in the deep ocean.

'The dolphins were very curious about their new neighbours and allowed them into their lives.'

Downer's last project, Spy in the Huddle, took viewers inside the world of penguins by deploying 50 cameras to the arctic for almost a year.

The first of the two-part series will air on Thursday, January 2 at 8pm on BBC1.


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