Dolphins Filmed ‘Getting High’ On Pufferfish Toxin Off Southeast Africa

Hidden cameras have captured footage of a pod of dolphins chasing down a pufferfish and apparently getting high on a nerve toxin that the fish uses as a defense mechanism.

The astonishing footage was filmed as part of a Discovery Channel special, Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, according to the Daily Mail. Filmmaker John Downer utilized hidden cameras disguised as squid or tuna in order to film the dolphins, techniques he previously employed while documenting penguin colonies.

Rob Pilley, who produced the special, asserted that Downer’s footage represents the first time that dolphins have been filmed “getting high” off the pufferfish toxin.

“We saw the dolphins handle the puffers with kid gloves, very gently and delicately like they were almost milking them to not upset the fish too much or kill it. As a result the fish released various toxins as a defense. The dolphins then seemed to be mesmerized.”

In the footage, which was captured off Southeast Africa, the dolphins can be seen chasing the frightened pufferfish along the sea floor. The terrified animal inflates itself in an effort to avoid being attacked, before the dolphins take hold of it, passing the fish back and forth between them. Eventually, the pufferfish releases a burst of nerve toxin, which dilutes in the water, having a drastic effect on the nearby dolphins, which begin acting as if they are high.

As the Inquisitr previously noted, pufferfish toxin can be deadly in large doses, more so even than cyanide. When diluted in water, however, it can induce a narcotic state, as observed in the dolphins. After being exposed to the nerve toxin, the dolphins exhibited strange behavior, as IFLScience points out, spending time staring at their reflections in the surface of the sea.

Pilley pointed to the expert and careful way that the dolphins handled the pufferfish to assert that it likely wasn’t their first time getting high with the species, according to the Smithsonian.

“The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care,” he noted.

In addition to film of the dolphins getting high, Downer was able to record a mother dolphin teaching her calf how to fish, as well as massive pods consisting of thousands of dolphins. His team recorded over 900 hours of footage in dolphin hotspots worldwide.

Once the dolphins managed to get high off the pufferfish toxin, the smaller fish was able to deflate itself and sneak away, whilst the pod remained otherwise distracted.

[Image: John Downer via Twitter/ @people]