No Big Fish Story Here: Dolphins Help Brazilian Anglers Net More Mullet

Feb 17, 2023

Give another a fish, as the saying goes, and you’ll feed someone for a day. Get a dolphin to help catch fish, and you can ring the dinner bell for the neighbors.

So, it seems, is the benefit of an unusual relationship between the two mammal species in Laguna, Brazil. The bottlenose dolphins and humans have been fishing together for years.

“Human-wildlife cooperation in general is … rare,” Mauricio Cantor, a biologist, told The New York Times. “Usually humans gain the benefit, and nature pays the cost. But this interaction has been happening for over 150 years.”

Cantor is an author of a study by a team of Brazilian scientists. The team looked at the dolphin-human fishing partnership. They found that dolphins might benefit as much from it as humans. The dolphins who fish with people appear to live longer.

How does it work? Dolphins drive mullet schools toward the people. When they get close, the dolphins make deep dives. That cues the people to cast their nets. If the human fishers time it just right they’ll catch a lot of fish. Dolphins can snatch up mullets disoriented by the cast. They can also pick some off through the nets. The study found the fishers were 17 times more likely to catch fish this way.

Cantor calls the interaction inspiring. “It's a good example of how humans and wildlife … can benefit in a mutually positive way,” he told NPR.   

Photo by Jules Verne Times Two courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Which of the following ideas is highlighted throughout the story? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. The mutually beneficial relationships between humans and various animal species.
b. The specific ways that dolphins can help humans to catch more fish.
c. The usual relationships between humans and mammals in Brazil.
d. The mutually beneficial relationship between dolphins and fishermen in Brazil.
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