Like other animal species, male dolphins strut their stuff in front of females to display their fitness for mating. Sometimes, they sing for females, making a kind of trumpeting “toot” with their blowholes. Or they leap high into the air. And now, after completing a decade-long study of Australian humpback dolphins, marine biologists have come to believe that male dolphins may also try to impress females by giving them sea sponges as "gifts." Dolphins are known to use the sponges to protect their delicate noses while foraging for food.
A sponge for my lady:
- Sponges are firmly attached to the sea floor and are difficult to pluck. A dolphin has to clamp down on the sponge and then quickly swim upwards in order to dislodge it.
- Researchers admit that they’re not entirely sure if the sponge presentation constitutes wooing, or whether it's a form of intimidation, like that displayed by chimpanzees. One male dolphin was observed flinging a sponge at a female in apparent frustration.
- Research on the different ways in which male dolphins woo females was published in October 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports.