Dolphin Moms Teach Daughters to Use Tools
for National Geographic News
June 7, 2005
When researchers first saw something strange on the snout of a dolphin in Shark Bay, Western Australia, they thought it was a massive tumor. Now they say it provides the first evidence of a tool-use culture in marine mammals.
The object turned out to be a marine sponge broken off from the seabed. Later other bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay were observed holding sponges over their beaks, and appeared to use them as a fishing tool.
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There is a picture of a dolphin in the article wearing this “glove” on its beaks, with the caption: Bottlenose dolphins like this one in Skark Bay, Western Australia, have learned how to use sponges to protect their noses while foraging for food on the seafloor. Scientists say that the behavior is passed on from mother to daughter, evidence of the first known tool-use culture in marine mammals.