are dolphins actually getting “high?”

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I know it’s a fun story that dolphins pass pufferfish or something and the venom gets them “high” but I wonder if this is accurate. This seems like a cute urban legend more than genuine animal psychology. Or am I wrong? Is it scientifically verified somehow that dolphins have the cognitive ability to deliberately abuse drugs and get high socially?

In: Biology

10 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Most animals get high/drunk when the opportunity presents itself. Even pretty simple creatures can form an addictive bond to chemicals if exposed to them.

The amount of evidence you seem to want is not realistic. We can’t pop a dolphin in an MRI and see what impact the toxin is having.

What we know is that dolphins will play with a fish that has a known neurochemical in it. At the end of playing, their behavior is changed temporarily.

That certainly looks like getting high.

As a side-note, dolphins do have *extremely* complex social behavior. They’ve very, very smart. But that isn’t a necessary component of the behavior you’re asking about.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It seems to be true. Here’s a video of the them doing it.

There are those that reject this theory.

https://grist.org/living/dolphins-arent-getting-high-on-pufferfish/

>Tetrodotoxin simply doesn’t make sense as a drug (and let’s be honest — if it did, humans would be snorting it off bathroom counters already). In very, very, very low doses, tetrodotoxin causes … slight lightheadedness … I guess it’s possible to see how one might relate these mild effects to the “high” feeling that comes from THC, the main ingredient in marijuana, but it’s a stretch to say the least …

>People get poisoned with TTX every year, and there’s a reason you don’t hear anyone describing the experience as a ‘high’: that’s not how tetrodotoxin works … It’s a poison, not a party drug. There is nothing fun about it.

…but I think this ignores the fact that different species have different physiologies. Some things that humans ingest are poisonous to other species. For instance, grapes are poisonous to dogs. That the dolphins don’t show the same adverse reaction to pufferfish as humans shows that this is the case. Dolphin tolerate pufferfish toxin ingestion and seemingly seek it out.

Anonymous 0 Comments

this has been documented on several occasions by researchers. While getting “high” or drunk is a bit of a leap, there is some sort of behavioral change we have observed

note that this is not a unique behavior in animals; as monkeys and elephants are often seen eating rotting fruits which will contain alcohol and then become drunk

Anonymous 0 Comments

Deliberate intoxication in the animal kingdom is a highly interesting topic, and touches on other topics like sentience and consciousness as well. There are lots of animals that *appear to us* to enjoy temporarily changing their consciousness by willfully ingesting chemical compounds that do the trick. Sometimes it’s even associated with a biological “reward”, like the lemurs who bite centipedes in order to stress them out so they’ll secrete a chemical that the lemur will then spread all over its body to act as a natural insect repellent. This chemical also seems to affect the lemurs in a psychoactive way, so the lemurs appear to be chasing the “high” more than the evolutionary advantage the use of insect repellents would bestow.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Crows (or maybe Ravens) have a similar behaviour, they stand on ants nests in order to be stung, for no apparent reason other than that they enjoy it. The ants’ venom isn’t strong enough to harm it, so it must have some sensory value.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The dolphins getting high on pufferfish poison has no scientific evidence to back it up. The claim came from a documentary but documentaries are NOT scientific research. **There is not a single peer reviewed paper that backs up the claim.**

Then you have the problem that the only evidence is the same documentary and footage. **A sample of 1 is not usuful to make conclusions.** But that doesn’t stop the internet from using the exact same thing as a source.

Then you have have to consider that pufferfish are poisonous (deadly to eat) not venomous (inject poison) meaning that **under normal circumstances touching it does not intoxicate**.

In other words, internet spreading misinformation.

Anonymous 0 Comments

[There you go](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h_PjnhSvd4&t=67s)

Links to the researches are in the description

TL:DW, no evidence that getting high is the goal, more likely that they’re toying with the poor sea ball

Anonymous 0 Comments

once saw a squirrel get tipsy on fermented berries. If squirrels are having boozy brunches, I wouldn’t put it past dolphins to enjoy a little pufferfish cocktail!

Anonymous 0 Comments

Abusing drugs requires little cognitive ability, and that’s not me slamming addicts or anything. It’s super common in mammals and birds, and there’s very solid evidence they are doing it deliberately, going out of their way to seek out mind altering substances. It taps into basic learning and reward, so there’s no reason to think it requires higher cognition, either. Dolphins 100% are smart enough for it and more. They aren’t nearly as nice as people seem to think, but they are every bit as smart as people think (if not more) and highly social. No one really questions it because given what we know about other animals and what we observe them doing, it’s the best possible explanation.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Apparently, and I’ve seen dolphins pass a puffer fish between themselves as they cruising around. Considering dolphins are a bit rapey and known to masturbate with fish, I quite frankly would not be surprised at anything