The title of this post has been a personal philosophy of mine for a while, and one of the things that makes me glad to be a part of the Southern Fried Science network is that I am among like-minded individuals. I don’t know what it is about sea mammals and I’m pretty sure most people who actually study them are just as mystified as I am, but people get really weird about them. They seem to have this strange effect on some humans that leads to things like people falling in (physical) love with them, wanting to birth their children in the water with them, believing they have psychic powers, and perhaps most annoying to those of us studying anything else in the ocean at all, that they’re somehow more worthy of protection than other sea creatures. Also, mention that you’re a marine biologist in a party full of non-scientists sometime. I guarantee that 9 times out of 10 you’ll be asked what it’s like to work with dolphins. Why yes, the goal of every marine scientist is to eventually work their way up to being a dolphin trainer at Sea World.
Which is why I owe a tip of the hat to Katie, a longtime friend of the blog who sent me a link to Animals Behaving Badly, which chronicles the antisocial behavior of some of the cuddliest creatures on the planet. Sea mammals, in particular dolphins, are well-represented there.
The top story on there right now is a retrospective on Moko, the dolphin who made headlines by terrorizing the waters of New Zealand and recently passed away. Among this dolphin’s many good deeds are stranding surfers by stealing their boards 500 yards from shore, knocking people out of kayaks, and in at least one case refusing to allow a swimmer to get out of the water. Moko is far from alone, however: dolphins can get just as creepy with their sexual deviancy as humans. Sharks might bite you, but dolphins might try to rape you. The children need to be warned!
Which is not to say that dolphins are not genuinely interesting animals that deserve the same amount of respect as great white sharks, vampire squid, deep sea corals, ctenophores, herring, or any other marine life. Believe it or not, I don’t think the problem lies with the dolphins (though they are showboating jerks). There is a point where our blatant favoritism towards the cute and charismatic is actually detrimental to everything else around them, and often ends up hurting the dolphins themselves in the long run. I think everyone interested in ocean conservation should be required to read this post on the old Southern Fried Science site.
That’s my turn on the soapbox for the day. Let the comments fly.