Guess What? Dolphins Might Enjoy Television Just As Much As Us!

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Bottlenose dolphin on the Banana River near Kennedy Space Center (Credit: NASA/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

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.

Dolphins at Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder watch television (Credit: Kelley A. Winship/Wiley ZooBiology)

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.

DogTV creates special programs for canines (Credit: Dogtelevision/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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

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aggressionanimationbehavioralcaptivatedcomplexdedicateddemonstrateenrichmentfrustrationimageryimpairedinabilityintelligentmammalsmanipulatemonitoringrespondedtraits
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  1. What are some of the human-like traits that dolphins demonstrate?
  2. What new human-like behavior trait did researchers from Dolphin Plus Marine Mammal Responder recently discover?
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Why would it not be a good idea to introduce television to dolphins who...

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“Dolphins have been known to demonstrate many human-like behavioral traits.”

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827 Comments
  • haiMonday, December 10, 2018 at 2:10 pm
    cool
    • kriztine
      kriztineMonday, December 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm
      those dolphins r super cool .It truly is so much fun to learn about dolphins.There so similar to us in so many different ways,this is just another way that we are similar on that somewhat long list. I loved this article
      • Forever WindMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:53 pm
        who lives in a pineapple under the sea i had no clue that dolphins and i have the same favorite tv show!!😆😆
        • slytherinfan
          slytherinfanMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm
          Dolphins are one of my favorite animals!
          • PopcakeMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm
            Super duper crazy
            • ninja Monday, December 10, 2018 at 1:43 pm
              spongebob is cool
              • jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:43 pm
                wow I did not know that dolphins watch sponge bob!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                • Dolphin Monday, December 10, 2018 at 1:38 pm
                  Dolphintastic!!!
                  • jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:37 pm
                    WOW!!!!!!!!!!
                    • The boyMonday, December 10, 2018 at 1:23 pm
                      I love dolphins so much.

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