Dolphins join in on tail-walking fad

Alan Boyle writes: Scientists have known for a long time that [chimps][1] and [crows][2] teach their pals survival tricks. Dolphins do likewise, by [showing other dolphins how to use sponges][3] to protect themselves from injury. But how about tricks that don’t seem to have survival value? Tricks like walking on your tail backward over the surface of the sea?

A couple of years ago, marine biologists noticed that dolphins in the wild were [walking on their tails][4] after spending some time with another dolphin, named Billie. Billie apparently learned tail-walking on her own while spending three weeks in an Australian water park called Marineland, and the scientists assumed that she showed the others how to do it.

Billie [passed away][5] last year, but her legacy continues. Last week, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reported that a [growing number of dolphins][6] in Port Adelaide have picked up the fad.

“As far as we are aware, tail walking has no practical function and is performed just for fun — akin to human dancing or gymnastics,” WDCS researcher Mike Bossley said in a news release. “As such, it represents an internationally important example of the behavioral simillarities between humans and dolphins.”

That’s one reason why we ranked dolphins among the [world’s 10 smartest animals][7] (along with chimps, crows and, um, humans). Check out the video above and the links below for more about animal intelligence:

* [Dolphins: Second-smartest animals?][8] * [Inside the mind of a ‘killer whale’][9] * [iPad to help humans speak with dolphins][10] * [Good times of the animal kind][11]

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_Connect with the [Cosmic Log][12] community by “liking” the log’s [Facebook page][13] or following _[_@b0yle on Twitter_][14]_. You can also check out _[_”The Case for Pluto,”_][15]_ Alan’s book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds._

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