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Dolphins join in on tail-walking fad

TODAY

Scientists have known for a long time that chimps and crows teach their pals survival tricks. Dolphins do likewise, by showing other dolphins how to use sponges to protect themselves from injury. But how about tricks that don't seem to have survival value? Tricks like walking on your tail backward over the surface of the sea?

A couple of years ago, marine biologists noticed that dolphins in the wild were walking on their tails after spending some time with another dolphin, named Billie. Billie apparently learned tail-walking on her own while spending three weeks in an Australian water park called Marineland, and the scientists assumed that she showed the others how to do it.

Billie passed away last year, but her legacy continues. Last week, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reported that a growing number of dolphins in Port Adelaide have picked up the fad.

"As far as we are aware, tail walking has no practical function and is performed just for fun -- akin to human dancing or gymnastics," WDCS researcher Mike Bossley said in a news release. "As such, it represents an internationally important example of the behavioral simillarities between humans and dolphins."

That's one reason why we ranked dolphins among the world's 10 smartest animals (along with chimps, crows and, um, humans). Check out the video above and the links below for more about animal intelligence:


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