While most scientists agree that dolphins don't really "get high on pufferfish", the marine mammals have been known to toss the toxic creatures around from time to time. A game of catch is a great way to have fun – and one of Scotland's cetacean celebrities recently showed off that skill – but with a much less dangerous toy.

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Narwhal or dolphin? Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook

The crew of EcoVentures, Cromarty captured snapshots of the playful animal in Moray Firth just recently. An inlet of the North Sea, the estuary is a popular spot for the famous "Star Wars" pod, a group of dolphins with distinctly Lucas-approved names. 

"One of our most favourite Dolphins is young 'Kenobi'," says the EcoVentures team. "She found a piece of seaweed which proved to be a huge entertainment for her, and us!"

Kenobi was named by researchers at the University of Aberdeen's Cromarty Field Station, who bestowed equally nerdy monikers on Kenobi's mother and sister: Chewbacca and Yoda. 

"They certainly do all have their very individual characters and [Kenobi] is one of the most playful, mischievous and inquisitive of them all," says the team.

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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook

Dolphin pods elsewhere in the world take "plant play" even further, with individuals passing bits of seaweed back and forth between each other. This same social behaviour has been documented with other objects, too – from seagrasses to sea turtles.

"Dolphins may push these animals around or chase and grab them just to release them before chasing them again," explains Scottish Oceans Institute Director Vincent M. Janik.

But as is the case with other wild animals, determining what qualifies as play behaviour among dolphins can be tricky. (Their permanent "grin" might suggest playfulness, but it's merely the result of jaw structure, and not an indicator of enjoyment or happiness ... just ask this decidedly unamused half-dolphin).

Antics like Kenobi's seaweed-slinging are interesting, Janik adds, but they're not that commonly seen. Bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas, for example, spend less than one percent of their time playing with objects. A far more common play behaviour is bow riding – either alongside boats or in the shadow of the ocean's mammalian giants (like this mother-and-calf pair who surfed a whale wake in Australia back in 2015).

As for Kenobi, we're not sure if her seaweed solo was a once-off event, but she kept up the behaviour long enough for all of us to enjoy. "She's always up to something!" says the EcoVentures team. 


 
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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook
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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook
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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook
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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook
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Image: EcoVentures, Cromarty/Facebook

 

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