Amazing footage shows dolphins rubbing against a specific type of coral—possibly to extract healing elements that will keep their skin healthy.
Researchers say it is the dolphin equivalent of “showering” after getting out of bed. If a human comes down with a rash, they might put ointment on it. Similarly, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins get skin conditions, and a new study shows they, in essence, are self-medicating by lining up (nose-to-tail) to rub themselves against corals.
Researchers have now shown that the corals have medicinal properties, suggesting that the dolphins are using the marine invertebrates to medicate skin conditions. Thirteen years ago, co-lead author Dr. Angela Ziltener, a wildlife biologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, first observed dolphins rubbing against coral in the Northern Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt.
She and her team noticed that the dolphins were selective about which corals they rubbed against, and they wanted to understand why.
Most dolphin research is conducted from the surface of the water, but because Dr. Ziltener is a diver, she was able to study the dolphins up close.