Toss and Slap — How Dolphins Disarm a Dangerous Meal


octopus dolphin
octopus dolphin

Eating octopus can be dangerous. Some dolphins in Australia, though, have figured out how to do this safely. They shake or toss their prey over and over until it goes limp and becomes safe to swallow.

A group of hungry dolphins off the coast of Western Australia have figured out how to eat a dangerous meal. It’s octopus. And if eaten alive, it can stick in the throat. The dolphins, though, know how to immobilize their prey, a new study finds. They shake and toss it until the head falls off, the animal is in pieces and its arms are tender and no longer wiggling.

dolphin octopus
In this sequence, an adult male dolphin shakes an octopus and slams it into the surface of the water.

Most people who dine on octopus also prefer it immobile. We cut it into pieces and grill or otherwise cook it. Some people do eat live octopus. They may consider the wiggly, armed entree a treat. But this isn’t a meal to be eaten carelessly. Those sucker-covered arms can stick to the throat and suffocate the diner if the entree has not first been chopped into small pieces.

Dolphins risk the same fate. “Octopus is a dangerous meal,” notes Kate Sprogis. She’s an ecologist at Murdoch University in Australia….

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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Sasha Harriet

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