Dolphin trains trainer


At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has quite a reputation.

All the institute’s dolphins are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish.

Kelly took this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool.

The next time a trainer passes, she tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer.

After a fish-reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on.

This behaviour is particularly interesting because it suggests that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification.

She has, in effect, trained the humans.

2 thoughts on “Dolphin trains trainer”

  1. I received this email today from a friend in Hawaii who takes people on snorkling adventures to freely dive with wild dolphins:

    We’re still operating the boat biz ( but NOAA is getting ready to shut down human-dolphin interaction in the open ocean from shore or boats with the claim that the activity is detrimental to the health of the Spinner dolphin pods that use the Kona coast as habitat. There is little scientific evidence to back up the claims of their locally hired marine expert, but we’ll most likely see regulations making it illegal to be within fifty yards of dolphins either in the water of from a boat with a year. Naturally enforcement will be nearly impossible but it will curtail any commercial operators from doing passenger trips to see them up close and personal – Anela Naia, Inc. included. And now, to add insult to injury, as far as I’m concerned, NOAA’s parent branch of the government, the National Marine Fisheries Services (a division of the Dept. of Commerce) is fast-tracking the US Navy’s permit request to expand their LFAS usage of lethal sonar arrays in over 70% of the world’s oceans over the next five years. This time their scientific evidence ensures that the Navy can do no harm. No surprise there, eh?

    I sense the two are inexorably connected as a means to keep people from developing any personal attachment to whales and dolphins that might cause them to protest what the Navy, as well as the Tuna and Oil industries, are doing to cetacean populations and mother ocean in general. Ironically, those of us who stood up to protest the Navy’s LFAS program in 1999 are being vilified in 2007 news articles as the bad guys that are killing dolphins with our interaction activity.

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