Baltimore (WHTM) Some dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore are having fun dribbling balls along the bottom of their pool. Yes, dribbling, just like in basketball. They balance the balls on the top of their rostrums (aka beaks or snouts), use their chins to bounce the balls off the bottom of the pool, and then catch them in their mouths.
So who taught them to do this? According to April Martin, Senior Marine Mammal Trainer at the aquarium, the dolphins made it up on their own.
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“Dolphins really tend to investigate their world with their mouths,” she says. “Their flippers and fins are really designed for swimming, but they don’t have a lot of maneuverability with them. But they have 80 to 100 teeth. They’ve got really strong tongues and they have very little nerve endings on the end of their face.
“So when they’re interacting with items, the first thing they want to do is touch it and the next thing they want to do is grab it with their mouth.”
Martin says they see that kind of dribbling motion a lot. “When they’re dealing with objects, they kind of seem to enjoy manipulating items in the water, so if something is floating at the surface. They grab it and pull it down. If it’s on the bottom, they’ll lift it up and watch it sink back down.”
The balls, she says, are designed to slowly fill the water.
“So they start off really buoyant and at the surface, but over time they become more neutrally buoyant so they can bounce them in an easier way. So it’s literally just a game that they invented, it’s bouncing, and then kind of try to balance it is in the water as well.”
“And what’s really cool is we see dolphins in the ocean doing similar type of motion with things like sponges or rockes or kelp. So it’s really cool that our dolphins are able to exhibit those same behaviors.”
Martin says the dolphins will sometimes interact with human visitors. So if you’re in the right place at the right time, a dolphin just might start a game of catch with you.