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Young Dolphins Get High Off Pufferfish

They've even got the puff-puff-pass etiquette down pat.
Photo: Flickr/Ryan Somma

Dolphins: They’re just like us! They give each other names, enjoy sex, and, according to new reports out of England, young dolphins like getting fucked up just as much as human teenagers do.

New footage set to air next week on BBC One’s "Dolphins: Spy in the Pod" reportedly shows adolescent bottlenose dolphins carefully chewing on pufferfish and passing the fish around in a circle, like a slew of teenagers in their high school parking lot after class. In fact, high dolphins apparently act much the same as high humans—stumbling around and getting freaked out by mirrors.

“This was a case of young dolphins purposely experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating,” John Downer, executive producer of the film, said. “After chewing the puffer gently and passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection.”

Of course, we’ve known for a long time that pufferfish toxins can act as a narcotic—it’s one of the reasons why poorly prepared fugu can kill you. Even properly-prepared fugu can make you light-headed and make your lips go numb, which is part of the whole experience. And there are plenty of instances of animals getting drunk or high off of the thousands of mood-altering substances occurring in nature. But it’s still pretty interesting to see an animal with a highly-advanced intelligence not only toying around with something it presumably knows is dangerous (hence the careful nibbling), but also sharing it with its buds.

BBC captured the footage using a series of new cameras disguised in various robotic sea creatures, including tunas, turtles, squids, and dolphins. Here’s some video of the Spyturtle cam in action. Unfortunately, there’s no footage of high dolphins on the Internet yet, but once the BBC episode airs, it should be everywhere. 'Til then, you can conjure up images of teen dolphins begging for their pufferfish dealer to give them one more hit.