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Study: Dolphins form cliques around mutual interests

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Bottlenose dolphins that have learnt to use sea sponges as hunting tools form cliques with others that do the same — the first evidence of animal grouping based on mutual interest, a study said Tuesday.

The finding may represent the first known proof of cultural behaviour in the animal kingdom, US-based researchers wrote in a paper in Nature Communications.

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They studied a group of bottlenose dolphins at Australia’s Shark Bay, some of whom had learnt the skill of “sponging” — slipping a sponge on their beaks as protection against sharp rocks while scouring the ocean floor for prey.

Based on 22 years of observations, the team found that the “spongers” forged closer ties with other spongers than with dolphins that had not acquired the hunting technique.

“Like humans who preferentially associate with others who share their subculture, tool-using dolphins prefer others like themselves, strongly suggesting that sponge tool-use is a cultural behaviour,” wrote the researchers from Georgetown University in Washington.

Sponging is a solitary activity.

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“Dolphins don’t sponge together but can identify who sponges and who doesn’t,” study author Janet Mann told AFP.

“Spongers spend a lot of time hunting, tend to be solitary, but clearly go out of their way when they can to meet up. You could think of them as workaholic dolphins that prefer to meet up with the other workaholics.”

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The study forms part of an ongoing scientific quest for proof of animal culture — loosely defined as a form of social learning that differentiates between groups.

The first spongers were discovered among Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay in the mid-1980s, and scientists believe they may have been using this hunting technique for centuries.

Normally, when some members of an animal group develop tool-use, the rest learn it too, as with chimpanzees using sticks to fish termites out of their nests or elephants swatting flies with tree branches.

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But in the case of the Shark Bay dolphins, only the calves of sponger females become spongers themselves, and the practice remains limited to a small subset — less than five percent of the 3,000-odd population, and mainly females.

No other example of sub-culture has ever been shown outside of humans, said the study.

“This was the first study to show that a non-human animal groups on the basis of … behaviour even though they don’t engage in the behaviour together,” said Mann.

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“This is more similar to how we think of human culture.”

Their intelligence and communication skills make dolphins popular subjects for such research.

[Dolphins via Shutterstock]

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Why was Jeffrey Epstein buying size 5 women’s panties — while in jail?

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The Miami Herald has another bombshell report on Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail while waiting to stand trial on federal sex crimes charges.

"A decade ago, during a brief stint in Palm Beach County Jail, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made an odd purchase at the facility’s store: two pairs of small women’s panties, size 5," the Herald reported Saturday night.

The newspaper noted, "the panties raise questions about why a childless male inmate, accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14, would be allowed to buy female undergarments so small that they wouldn’t fit an average-sized adult woman."

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White nationalist Republican ridiculed after only 2 people show up for his town hall meeting

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Embattled Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suffered further humiliation on Saturday when only two people showed up for his town hall meeting with Iowa constituents.

King, who was stripped of all committee assignments for his white nationalism, was been an embarrassment for Republicans with his constant racism and misogyny.

A photo of the town hall meeting was posted on Twitter by Reuters photo editor Corinne Perkins.

https://twitter.com/corinne_perkins/status/1162806565109473280

Rep. King was quickly mocked in the comments.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/sedespres/status/1162811223186006018

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2020 Election

Democrats could flip the Texas state house in 2020 — and reshape the national map

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Blue Texas? Democrats have long dreamt of winning Texas’s 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. That may still be a long shot, but a recent “Texodus” from Congress has given new talk to a political transformation across the Lone Star State that could have massive ramifications down the ballot and for decades to come.

This article was originally posted at Salon.

Four of the state’s GOP members of Congress have announced their retirements in recent weeks, an unusual torrent of departures signaling that a storm is coming. And evidence shows that it’s not just hitting Texas’s federal delegation. It’s coming to Austin, too.

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