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Dolphins have been known to demonstrate many human-like behavioral traits. These include forming complex relationships to accomplish common goals, teaching one another survival skills, and even “babysitting” each other's kids. Now, some researchers at the Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder in Key Largo, Florida have discovered another thing the intelligent mammals share with humans – a love for television!
For their research, Kelly A. Winship and Holli C. Eskelinen recruited 11 bottlenose and five rough-toothed dolphins. The mammals were treated to two TV shows – episodes of Planet Earth starring other cetaceans as well as ones with just scenery, and clips from the popular kids’ series, Spongebob Squarepants. The researchers say the dolphins, even those that were hearing impaired, did not seem to care what was being played. They were equally captivated by both – the realistic imagery of Planet Earth and the animation in Spongebob Squarepants.
Interestingly however was that the male dolphins spent more time staring at the screens than the females. They also responded more strongly to the programming by either showing aggression (indicated by head jerks or a jaw clap), or interest (shown by raising their chin or pressing their foreheads against the TV), or even blowing bubbles (indicating interest or aggression). Winship and Eskelinen, who published their findings in the journal Zoo Biology on August 28, 2018, believe the display of aggression was most likely a result of the frustration resulting from the inability to physically interact with, or manipulate, the TV.
Though there is a lot more to learn about the mammals’ television preferences, the scientists believe suitable programming could be used as part of enrichment programs for dolphins unfit to be released in the wild. The researchers also think monitoring their response to different kinds of shows could provide scientists some insight into the mammals’ thinking process.
Dolphins are not the only animals that seem to share our passion for television. As most pet owners are aware, dogs love it as well. In fact, canines enjoy the entertainment so much that there is now a special cable channel, DogTV, dedicated to creating special programming to keep pooches happy while their humans are at work!
Resources: Cnet.com, mashble.com, sciencemag.org