Did I stutter? This one does exactly what is says on the tin, folks. Hit the jump for the clip, if you dare, then we'll discuss what we can learn from the footage. Because you're damn right there's a teaching moment to be had here.
All right, so between YouTuber alexandros malikides's choice of music and the look of sheer, open-mouthed enthusiasm that the dolphin repeatedly directs at the camera, the obvious takeaway is that this clip is actually a little distressing. But there's actually a lot to discuss here, so let's unpack.
The fact is, as most anyone with a leg and a male dog will tell you, that animals masturbate. What you may not realize is just how many of them do it (males and females alike), not to mention how creative they can get with the whole process.
As biologist Bruce Begamihl notes in his book Biological Exuberance, untamed animal sexuality is the mother of all kinds of autoerotic inventions, from your run-of-the-mill hand/paw-on-genitalia action (seen in primates as well as lions), to foot (observed in vampire bats), flipper (walruses), and even tail-play (savanna baboons). "Sometimes," writes Begamihl, on the subject of masturbation in rhesus macaques and bonobos, it's even "accompanied by stimulation of the nipples." For those who regard nipple-fondling as borderline puritanical, Begamihl provides still more examples:
[Other techniques include] auto-fellating or licking, sucking and/or nuzzling by a male of his own penis (Common Chimpanzees, Savanna Bonobos, Vervet Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Thinhorn Sheep, Bharal, Aovdad, Dwarf Cavies); stimulation of the penis by flipping or rubbing it against the belly or in its own sheath (White-tailed and Mule Deer, Zebras and Takhi); spontaneous ejaculations (Mountain Sheep, Warthogs, Spotted Hyenas); and stimulation of the genitals using inanimate objects (found in several primates and cetaceans).
Many birds masturbate by mounting and copulating with tufts of grass, leaves or mounds of earth, and some mammals such as primates and dolphins also rub their genitals against the ground or other surfaces to stimulate themselves.
Depending on who you ask, the use of grass tufts and other inanimate objects could probably qualify, in certain circumstances, as tool use. That's pretty amazing if you think about it, seeing as the end goal in such situations is not acquiring a meal, constructing a shelter, or accomplishing anything else with obvious implications for survival or fitness, but self-pleasure.
But then... it's just that, well, it's just not often that the tool of choice is a dead fish with no head, right? I mean, technically a recently departed fish falls into the "inanimate object" category of genital stimulators mentioned by Begamihl, but just barely, which – you'll forgive the phrase – is a pretty dick move on the dolphin's part. That being said, male bottlenose dolphins have been observed to wrap live eels around their penises in an effort to get themselves off (which is about as enterprising of the dolphin as we imagine it is humiliating for the eel). Point being, this is an animal that clearly has no qualms about toeing the animate/inanimate line. Which, why you gotta be like that, dolphin?
Oh wait. We know why. It's because you're an asshole.