One of the types of food that dolphins are quite keen of are octopuses. For dolphins, they’re both tasty and bite-sized, but it turns out that they get pretty violent with their prey before eating it. They’ll toss it around, thrash it around violently, and practically beat it up even after removing the head.
Image Credit: Kate Sprogis/Murdoch University
This includes essentially playing fetch with one’s self and then retrieving the carcass and slapping it against the water’s surface very hard. But why do they do this?
It turns out that dolphins simply need to process their food before eating it. The findings were published in the journal Marine Mammal Biology by researchers that studied the behavior in dolphins off of the coast of Western Australia.
Octopuses are much too large and stiff for dolphins to swallow whole, and more importantly, the tentacles prove to be a very real choking hazard for the animals.
Moreover, when severing the head of an octopus, the tentacles still manage to keep a mind of their own from the nervous system, similarly to the way lizard tails move around violently after being severed from the rest of the body, so it takes a little bit of persuasion on the dolphins’ part to lay the tentacles to rest for consumption.
In terms of the dolphin, which often devours the head first and the tentacles later, this can be deadly in and of itself, as the tentacles can crawl their way out of the stomach if not properly dealt with beforehand.
By performing these (sometimes violent) maneuvers to process their food beforehand, dolphins help eliminate the choking hazard. It breaks the carcasses apart and softens them up before they move forward with swallowing it.
For what it’s worth, the team noted that dismantling behaviors differed depending on the species and the region of the world where the dolphins were observed doing it. This would suggest that all of the animals learned from different teachers and that some populations may have even developed their own techniques.
So there you have it – dolphins are violent with their food to make sure it’s dead beforehand.
Source: Murdoch University