Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dolphin Knew the Diver Would Help

Reciprocal Altruism This rather erudite term means one individual helping another with the evolutionary result that the original helper may obtain help in the future and thus better chances of survival and passing along ones genes. Human societies involve a lot of cooperation in everything from agriculture to finance to warfare. So the idea that if I help you, you will help me someday is axiomatic. But why would a human help a dolphin? At first glance we would have no real expectation that the helped dolphin or others of its group would help us. Perhaps reciprocal altruism may be embedded in our DNA and become trans specific. For an example of a dolphin helping a human, check out this video of dolphins saving me from a hammerhead shark in the Bahamas. I’m not saying we help dolphins with the conscious expectation that the dolphin will one day help us in any way. I think we do it because we have an innate sense that having dolphins in the world makes our lives richer. So just by being dolphins are “helping” us. For an example of humans helping dolphins you have only to look at the worldwide response to he brutal killing of dolphins at Taiji. For another video of a human helping a dolphin check out Here we have the whole new wrinkle in that the dolphin asked the diver for help. This is not unique but it is mind blowing in what it says about dolphin intelligence and the potential for human-dolphin cooperation in the seas. The dolphin knew the human could help and chanced that he would help. I started this blog thinking I could wrap it up in 15 minutes. But the idea keeps expanding exponentially, so I’ll stop here and come back to it. To read a scientific paper by Dr. Ken Norris on reciprocal altruism go to

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