Dolphins ‘shake and toss’ octopus prey, research finds

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A bottlenose dolphin tosses an octopus across water
A bottlenose dolphin tosses an octopus across water

Octopuses can be a perfect meal for dolphins, but they can also pose a deadly choking hazard.

So dolphins have developed elaborate behaviours to turn larger prey into more bite-size pieces, according to marine biologists in Australia.

The researchers filmed dolphins shaking octopuses and tossing them through air in preparation for consumption.

The findings, compiling years of observations, have been described in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

“Everyone relates it to seafood preparation,” lead author Dr Kate Sprogis told the BBC.

“They’ve got skills to prepare their meal.”

An adult bottlenose dolphin shakes an octopus off the coast of Bunbury, Western AustraliaThe elaborate technique was observed off the coast of Western Australia

The authors said the technique is one way dolphins have managed to thrive in waters around Australia.

“They bite off the head first then they shake and toss the rest of the body,” Dr Sprogis said.

“They have to do this because they are such large octopus they can’t just swallow them in one piece.”

The technique also prevents octopus tentacles from latching on to dolphins, she said.

The study involved researchers from Murdoch University and Monash University.

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