Dolphin hooligans are going around killing innocent porpoises

It's like the ocean has turned into something out a bad 50s biker movie - gangs of young bottlenose dolphins are roaming the seas, taking out their sexual frustrations by randomly killing any porpoises that get in their way.

Researchers at the California marine conservation organization Okeanis observed three separate acts of violence by dolphins against porpoises. In each instance, a group of dolphins came across a porpoise that was by itself, presumably minding its own porpoise-y business. The dolphins then chased the porpoises at high speeds, and when they caught up to them the dolphins would ram the porpoises until they drowned.


And, as though these dolphin ruffians wanted to really cement their reputations as the bastards of the ocean, they seem to be killing these porpoises just for kicks. The researchers saw one instance where two dolphins kept a porpoise trapped until a bunch of other dolphins could catch up so that they could all feel the thrill of the kill, and then some of the dolphins stayed behind to play with the corpse until they got bored and pushed the dead porpoise towards the researchers' boats. Okeanis member Mark Cotter describes the scene:

"It was almost like they said: 'We're done playing with it, here you go'."

So what's brought all this on? Are young dolphins rebelling against their hopelessly square parents? Are their dolphin minds being warped by the devilry known as rock music? Did some dolphin get his flippers on a copy of A Clockwork Orange and just completely miss the point of the damn thing? Or maybe dolphins are just total, raging bigots towards porpoises?

The actual reason is almost as stupid as any of those. The researchers have identified 21 of the 23 attackers as males, and most of the dolphins involved in the attack were relatively young. Cotter suggests that these porpoise killings - scratch that, porpoise murders - are a form of "object-oriented play" that the dolphins do to take out their frustration when they can't get access to females during the breeding season, since older males tend to have more success.

That's right: these dolphin ne'er-do-wells are killing porpoises because they can't get a date. To which all I can say to our many sexually frustrated dolphin readers is this...have you ever considered getting into science fiction? I mean, if you're looking for something to do during breeding season, I've got some old Doctor Who DVDs that are priced to move. If nothing else, I'm sure the porpoises will thank me.


Via New Scientist. Image via.

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