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30 Aug, 2018 12:28

Dolphin teaches mates how to walk on water after learning trick in captivity (VIDEO)

Dolphin teaches mates how to walk on water after learning trick in captivity (VIDEO)

A lengthy study has revealed that one formerly captive dolphin taught nine of its wild companions the human-coached skill of tail walking. The pod then became famous for the impressive balancing act.

The research has identified Billie, a dolphin that temporarily entered captivity in 1988, as the animal that likely trained wild tail-walking dolphins to perform the spectacular trick. Billie was rescued from a creek near Adelaide’s Patawalonga River in 1988 and spent a period of time in captivity. It is there that the dolphin is believed to have learned how to walk on top of water using its tail.

Between 2011 and 2014, a number of wild dolphins along the shores of Adelaide’s Port River became famous for performing the water-walking trick.

The lead author of the new study focussing on these creatures, Dr Mike Bossley, believes that after 30 years of analysis he is sure Billie is the architect of the out-in-the-wild capers. The trick is thought to have been passed along in the community for a period of time.

"I knew Billie’s history and was able to track her behavior and that of the other dolphins in the community over an extended period. This enabled me to observe tail walking spread through the community,” he said. The number of tail walkers in the area has since declined, however, suggesting the trend was a temporary one.

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Co-author Philippa Brakes, a PhD student at the University of Exeter, believes the study can help in understanding how dolphins learn in their natural habitat.

“Understanding more about the social transmission of behavior will help us predict how different species may respond to changes in their environment,” she said.

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