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Are Dolphins Getting High Off of Blow ... Fish?

When you think dolphin, you probably think of something sleek and gray, smiling and smart, and ... straight-laced? Dolphin drugs likely didn't come to mind.

When you imagine a dolphin, you probably think of something sleek and gray, smiling and social, intelligent and ... straight-laced? At least, you’ve probably never imagined dolphin drugs being a thing.

But one researcher in Australia thinks she may have seen a young dolphin getting high, or something like it, Seeker reports. Krista Nicholson, a biologist with the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project, studies dolphins and their behavior for a living.

Most of what she sees falls under the category of everyday dolphin activity: jumping out of the water, swimming fast, hunting for fish, etc.

But while watching one calf, Huubster, who is just 1 year old, Nicholson noticed some odd behavior. Huubster kept tossing a little blowfish out of the water while the other members of his pod swam on like mature adults who don’t need drugs to have fun.


Photo Credit: Facebook/Krista Nicholson


Photo Credit: Mandurah Dolphin Research Project


Photo Credit: Facebook/Krista Nicholson


Blowfish are super toxic fish that teem with the toxin tetrodotoxin, which they release upon spotting a potential threat and inflating their entire body.

Incidentally, scientists surmise blowfish only evolved their poison because their weird and boxy bodies are so aerodynamically challenged that they needed some kind of defense mechanism from potential predators. So instead of swimming away or squirting a camouflaging ink cloud, blowfish simply bob around, full of poison.

According to Nicholson, the dolphin could be biting the fish to draw out the toxin again and again and again. This could make the Huubster high, or at least a little numb. There’s no science to precisely corroborate this story.




But it’s not the first time dolphin drugs have come up. The theory was first floated in the BBC documentary called "Dolphins — Spy in the Pod."

The producers wrote a description of the blowfish episode that sounded eerily like a campy PSA you were forced to watch in middle school: “A young male leaves the security of his mother's pod to set up life alone. He forms a strange friendship with a humpback dolphin, joins a teenage gang and discovers the narcotic effects of a hapless pufferfish."

There is no evidence that suggests that Huubster has joined any gang, cetacean or otherwise. But the photos clearly show the young dolphin having a grand old time.


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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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