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11.11.09

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Breakdown

Killer dolphins prowl Monterey Bay.

By Jessica Lussenhop


Flipper has officially flipped out. Researchers at Okeanis, a research and conservation nonprofit based in Moss Landing, have finally confirmed their suspicions about the rising number of dead porpoises washing up on California shores--they're being killed by bottlenose dolphins. In September, researchers captured footage near Capitola waters of a gang of male dolphins cornering a porpoise, then pummeling it with their snouts, raking it with their teeth and jumping on top of it to drown it. The scientists say they suspected this was happening after recovering porpoise carcasses with teeth marks on them, but had never actually seen it happen before. One theory is that the porpoises too closely resemble baby bottlenose dolphins, which male dolphins will sometimes kill in order to make females available to mate again, but while the number of porpoise bodies has increased from one or two a year to 16 last year, the researchers have not noticed an uptick in dead baby bottlenoses. The creepiest part of this footage? After the porpoise is dead, the gang of dolphins actually bring the body to the Okeanis research boat. Is this like playful cat-bringing-you-a-dead-bird behavior? Or maybe it's a message--"The porpoise sleeps with the researchers."


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