Dolphins pre-plan their grocery shopping

A bottlenose dolphin eats a fish underwater
© Joost van Uffelen/Shutterstock

These coolest of sea creatures know what they're doing.

Humans figure out what they're going to eat before they actually acquire said food. (Unless you're the kind of person who returns from the supermarket with a bunch of flashy, unrelated items that looked intriguing but you have no idea what to do with. I'm looking at you, papayas.) But what about other animals?

Scientists have never known whether dolphins plan their hunting treks ahead of time. It's tough to track a dolphin underwater; you can't exactly ask it to put on a data logger. Dolphins are great swimmers; you wouldn't be able to touch one with a ten-foot pole if it wasn't in the mood.

So, what's a curious scientist to do? Use a five-meter-long pole, obviously.

That's what a group of researchers did when they conducted a study to figure out just how much planning went into dolphin hunts.

"It is really difficult to approach them and attach something to their backs; you need to be very patient!" said Patricia Arranz, a researcher from the University of St. Andrews who used a five-meter-long pole to attach a data logger to a dolphin.

Because the pole had put them in a techy mood, the scientists also operated underwater robots remotely to track nearby squids, or as dolphins call them, lunch.

"In one of the experiments, we were extremely lucky as the group that the tagged animal was in stayed in the same area, allowing us to track the dolphin every time it was at the surface and observe the prey with the echosounder right where and when the dolphin was foraging," continued Arranz.

The scientists found that the dolphins were definitely planning their hunt ahead of time. They decided where to look for squid based on where they'd found squid in the past. They even planned multiple stops out along the lines of "Hey guys, let's hit these nearby squids first, and then go for the big haul deep underwater."

Just one more reason to think dolphins know what they're doing. And, if "The Simpsons" are right, that they may eventually conquer the planet.

Dolphins pre-plan their grocery shopping
These coolest of sea creatures know what they're doing.

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