Dolphins celebrate new year on … er, puffer fish?


One of the cleverest creatures in the animal kingdom has discovered an unconventional way to get high. And, so, maybe the New Year celebrations were a lot of Puff!.

Some dolphins are (ahem) puffing on puffer fish, which release nerve toxins when provoked that can cause a narcotic effect, reports London’s The Sunday Times. Underwater footage from a new two-part BBC1 documentary series, “Dolphins: Spy in the Pod,” shows young dolphins milking the fish of their toxins and then passing the fish to other dolphins.

“This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating,” Rob Pilley, a zoologist and a producer on the series, told the Times. “After chewing the puffer gently and passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection.”

While a large amount of puffer fish toxins can be deadly, a low dose can trigger a trancelike state.

To film the new series, BBC wildlife documentary producer John Dower developed several “Spy Creatures,” underwater camera technology modeled after real animals. Equipped with cameras for eyes, the Spy Dolphin, Spy Nautilus and Spy Turtle captured 900 hours of dolphin footage by diving more than 1,500 times and spending nearly 3,000 hours at sea in all kinds of weather.

Dolphins aren’t the only animals to find a creative way to get high. Dogs in Australia were found to be licking cane toads, which excrete toxins in their sweat. Though the toxins appear to cause a “high” for some dogs, they were also found to be poisonous to pets in other cases.