Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins

Fugu sashimi : Tessa is sashimi of thin sliced...

Fugu sashimi : Tessa is sashimi of thin sliced puffer fish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Penultimate day of the Janus Project and a bizarre story of dolphins getting high on puffer fish.  I think the puffer fish is the one used in Japanese cooking; it requires very careful preparation and I believe that you have to have some sort of certification to serve it.  The knives used in its preparation can not be used for anything else, such is the strength of the toxin.  I wonder how dolphins discovered the narcotic effects of the puffer fish without themselves being killed in the process!

Daze of the Dolphin

Don’t Bogart that joint,
my fish-eating friend.
Anoint my lips,
pass it over to me.
Give me an end,
I depend on a hit
from that toxic shit
of piscine hallucinogen.

Who could imagine
that dolphins like Flipper
could be double-dippers
of neural toxin,
like sharing a spliff
when they pass round the fish
and gently squeeze
to release ecstasy.

The carefully pressured
juice of the puffer
is treasured by dolphins.
It gives such a high
that they gaze at the skies
and philosophise
on the meaning of life,
wondering why they are here.


30th December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.”  Dolphins are thought of as one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they have put their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting “high”.  In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.  Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.  Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.