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Dolphins Have Interspecies Hunting Parties

A real life tale of animal BFFs

A false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin hanging out at a zoo in Japan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Imagine if chimpanzees and gorillas worked together to go foraging, the chimps swinging through the trees as scouts, gorillas using their big muscles to break through strong seeds. That’s kind of like the relationship between false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins. As Elizabeth Preston writes on her blog, Ink Fish, false killer whales and bottlenoses are known to pair up and go hunting together. But this marine hunting party is even more remarkable than a theoretical simian alliance: gorillas and chimps are actually more closely related than the two types of dolphins.

Adorable, cross-species animal friendships are internet gold, but this is an example of how interspecies cooperation goes way beyond that one tiger that’s raising a bunch of piglets. Despite their name, false killer whales, or Pseudorca crassidens, are actually a species of dolphin. But they’re part of the genus Pseudorca, like regular killer whales. Bottlenose dolphins, meanwhile, are in the Tursiops family. In a new study, says Preston, researchers found that the whales and the dolphins pal around a lot. From a small batch of false killer whale sightings made between 1995 and 2012 (the whales are very rare), she writes, “When false killer whales were seen, bottlenose dolphins were by their side “virtually all the time,” Zaeschmar says—in 43 out of the 47 sightings.”

The researchers think that by teaming up the animals improve their chances of a successful hunt. But the dolphin-whale friendships seem to hold on even outside of hunting. Some of the animals were seen hanging out together up to five years apart. Awwww.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Dolphins May Have Names for One Another
Leave No Dolphin Behind: Dolphin Pod Carries Injured Member Until She Stops Breathing

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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