Dolphins may be known for their curiosity and intelligence, but they enjoy chilling out in front of the TV.
Researchers at the Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder in Key Largo, Florida, played videos on a TV screen through underwater windows.
They played scenes from Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth featuring other cetaceans, other nature shows, plus some Spongebob Squarepants.
Researchers then monitored the dolphins’ behavior for signs of interest, such as pressing their heads against the glass or nodding their heads, or signs of aggression, such as clamping their jaws or swimming with jerky movements.
They found that the dolphins didn’t really mind what was on the TV, but certain dolphins showed more interest in the pictures than others.
‘Rough‐toothed dolphins displayed significantly more behaviors, particularly interest and bubble behaviors, than bottlenose dolphins, with no differences observed between the species for the percentage of time spent watching,’ the researchers wrote in the journal Zoo Biology.
‘Among bottlenose dolphins, males watched the television longer, and responded behaviorally significantly more, displaying a higher rate of bubble and aggressive behaviors than females.
‘Male rough‐toothed dolphins displayed significantly more aggressive behaviors than females, with no other sex differences noted.’
Those aggressive behaviours may be due to the inability for these dolphins to physically interact with or manipulate the TV, the study concluded.
In the future, researchers think TV could be useful as an ‘enrichment device,’ so long their species, sex and individual differences are taken into consideration.
Monitoring how dolphins respond to different videos could also provide new ways to study how they think.