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Dolphins’ Surprising Skincare Routine

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Diving deep into the ocean’s mysteries, we often find fascinating behaviours that leave us in awe. One such discovery is the dolphins’ surprising skincare routine, a unique ritual that showcases their intelligence and adaptability in the vast marine world.

Image credit: Courtesy of Joshua Pedley, The Wildlife Man 

A Dolphins’ Spa Day 

Dolphins, known for their intelligence and playful nature, have a unique way of dealing with skin irritations. Instead of seeking human-made remedies, they head straight to the ocean’s natural pharmacy. In the Northern Red Sea, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins have been observed lining up to rub themselves against specific corals and sponges, much like spa-goers seeking the perfect treatment.

More than Just a Rub 

While it might seem like a simple act of scratching an itch, there’s more to this behaviour than meets the eye. Recent studies suggest that these dolphins might be self-medicating. The corals and sponges they choose to rub against release a mucus rich in antibacterial compounds and other beneficial substances. This mucus, when applied to their skin, could potentially treat various skin conditions.

Choosing the Right Treatment 

Image credit: Courtesy of Joshua Pedley, The Wildlife Man 

Dolphins are not just randomly selecting any coral or sponge. They have specific preferences. For instance, they’ve been seen rubbing against gorgonian corals, the leather coral, and the sponge species Ircinia. These particular marine organisms contain bioactive metabolites with properties that can combat bacteria, balance hormones, and provide antioxidative benefits.

Nature’s Healing Mucus 

When dolphins rub against these corals and sponges, they stimulate the release of a special mucus. This isn’t just any mucus—it’s packed with medicinal properties. Lab tests have identified at least 17 different bioactive metabolites within this mucus, all of which could be beneficial for skin treatments. Think of it as nature’s ointment, ready to soothe and heal.

A Growing List of Self-Medicating Animals

If these findings are further validated, dolphins will join a growing list of animals known to self-medicate, a phenomenon termed zoopharmacognosy. From great apes consuming specific leaves for digestion to fruit flies ingesting alcohol to combat parasites, the animal kingdom is full of fascinating examples of creatures seeking nature’s remedies.

Watch Dolphins’ Skincare Routine

YouTube video

Protecting the Dolphin’s Natural Pharmacy 

The coral reefs where these medicinal interactions occur are more than just treatment centres for dolphins. They are also their playgrounds and resting areas. However, these natural habitats are at risk of increasing tourism and human interference.

Final Thoughts On Dolphins’ Skincare Routine

The ocean continues to reveal its mysteries, showcasing the intricate relationships between its inhabitants. The dolphins’ use of corals and sponges as a natural pharmacy reminds us of the importance of preserving marine ecosystems.

What do you think about this self-medicating behaviour of dolphins? Leave a comment below.

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