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._

[1]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19108970 [2]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15503722/ [3]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8121399/ [4]: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1047212/Billy-dolphin-teaches-flippered-friends-walk-water.html [5]: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/farewell-billie-our-lost-dolphin-friend/story-e6freo8c-1225760473142 [6]: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20101021007283/en/Whale-Dolphin-Conservation-Society-Clever-dolphins-learn [7]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24628983/ [8]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35013555/ [9]: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/02/26/4349970-inside-the-mind-of-a-killer-whale [10]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37478756 [11]: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32133597/ns/technology_and_science-science [12]: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/ [13]: http://www.facebook.com/cosmiclog [14]: http://twitter.com/b0yle [15]: http://www.thecaseforpluto.com/

URL: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/10/25/5349024-dolphins-join-in-on-tail-walking-fad

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