Dolphins are crafty creatures. In the 2009 documentary Life, Sir David Attenborough and the BBC team show us one of the bottlenose dolphin’s more elaborate hunting techniques.
But as it happens, dolphins can be even more inventive and daring in their search for dinner than we’d imagined. Some dolphins, it seems, have learned how to stealthily nab fish from trawler nets running along the ocean bottom, says Nature. The research found that “dolphins seek out and actually venture inside huge nets pulled through the oceans by modern fishing vessels.” This clever hunting technique can sometimes end rather poorly for the dolphins, as they can get caught up in the very nets from which they are pilfering.
Once a trawler moves to a new area, dolphins quickly gather around the stern of the vessel and are associated with it for much of the time they are in the area. Hence, it is most likely that all individuals incidentally caught inside trawl nets in this fishery have deliberately entered the nets for the foraging opportunities this presents,” said the researchers in an email to Nature.
The researchers suggest that now that they know that dolphins are going into the big, slow trawler nets on purpose—rather than being caught up in the net as it is pulled along the sea floor—modifications to the nets could help the dolphins avoid becoming bycatch.
More from Smithsonian.com:
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