A Clever New Fishing Method, ‘Conching,’ is the Latest Trend Spreading Among Australia’s Hippest Bottlenose Dolphins

Posted: 08/27/2011 in all marine news

Clay Dillow –

Attention hipsters and other people seeking hipness: there’s a new fad catching on in Western Australia’s Shark Bay, and you won’t want to be the last to to post pictures of yourself imitating it to your Tumblr feed.

“Conching” is a method by which Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are trapping small fish in conch shells, bringing the shells to the surface, and then shaking them with their rostrums to clear out the water and dump the fish into their mouths. More remarkably, the trend appears to be spreading throughout an entire population of dolphins, and fast.

The first isolated instances of conching were recorded in 2007 and 2009 among a small group of Shark Bay’s dolphins. But other dolphins seem to be observing that behavior and learning the method for themselves–in the last four months alone, researchers have documented the behavior six or seven times–marking a very rapid horizontal spread of behavior.

That’s significant on a few levels. For one, we already know dolphins are very intelligent creatures, but a horizontal spread of a learned behavior at this rate is pretty off-the-charts.

Moreover, scientists appear to have gotten in on this fad at the ground floor (they were observing dolphins conching way before it was mainstream, bro), so they have the opportunity to observe this learned behavior as it spreads.

Full story…

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