Dolphins have been observed, not only apparently getting high off of their fellow ocean dwelling neighbors the pufferfish, but passing the small fish amongst themselves as they partake. Footage of this interesting act can be seen in the BBC documentary series Dolphin: Spy in the Pod. According to Zoologist Rob Pilley, it was the first time dolphins getting high off pufferfish was caught on film.
Why pufferfish? The small fish eject a potent defensive chemical called tetrodotoxin when they are threatened. According to brobible, the “pufferfish’s liver produces tetrodotoxin (TTX) from bacteria and weaponizes it as a method of defense. The neurotoxin can kill predators such as other fish and even humans.”
While TTX is meant to impair or even kill an attacker, it doesn’t seem to work on dolphins. In fact, when consumed in small doses the toxin appears to induce “a trance-like state” in dolphins. In other words: it gets them high.
The Daily News explains:
“The dolphins were filmed gently playing with the puffer, passing it between each other for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, unlike the fish they had caught as prey which were swiftly torn apart. Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.
At one point the dolphins are seen floating just underneath the water’s surface, apparently mesmerized by their own reflections.”
The footage catching the dolphins in the act appears to show that they know exactly what they’re doing with the small, terrorized fish. According to Pilley, this isn’t their first time exploring the effects of the fish. And it makes the old idiom “puff, puff, pass” take on a whole new meaning.