Is This Dolphin Going to Be OK?

Here’s the most adorable video you’ll ever see of a child being bitten by a wild animal.

I’m sure that dolphins get far worse things in their digestive systems than a few grams of paper here and there, but IANAMarineBiologist. Is the animal going to require any surgical/medical intervention, or will it just pass through his digestive system?

Seems like you answered your own question.

The stupid video had the TV station’s logo covering up most of the action of interest. :mad: If the anchorman had not said, I would not have been able to tell that what the dolphin got was a paper plate.

Well, like I said, I’m not a marine biologist, so for all I know a Cetacean’s digestive system might be quite fragile.

I think the dolphin will be fine, a bit of paper plate isn’t any tougher than the bones, skin, and scales of the fish they normally eat.

Y’know, it never really occurred to me before this story that dolphins are carnivores. Weird.

How did she not get injured? Don’t dolphins have teeth?

It looks like the dolphin grabbed at the food, got both the plate and her hand, and let go once he discovered that he had more than he bargained for. Pretty much the same thing that might happen with an over-zealous dog. She probably has some minor to moderate bite injuries, but nothing lasting, and nothing worth suing over.

They’re that considerate? That’s nice. But aren’t their teeth sharp, being carnivorous? I’ve always wondered how dogs tell between food meat and human meat.

This, like most sensationalistic news stories these days, is from my state…
The girl does have teeth marks from the dolphin. I’ve seen lots of reports about the girl being ok. No news about the dolphin.

I have seen a few stories about PETA suing to make sure the dolphin is ok.

How is that an adorable video?

I don’t see any reason to think the dolphin swallowed the plate, it could just have easily been spit out. Animals are pretty good at that. My dog snarfs down food then spits out the medicine that I stuffed in it like a pro. And that’s just a dumb ole dog. Dolphins root around in the sand with their noses and pull out buried fish, and I would assume they do so without eating a bunch of sand and rocks and shells and other non-edible junk.

There are things that can cause obstruction and result in complications.

A piece of what is probably partially recycled (or recyclable) weak carton/strong paper is not one of those things.

I’d be concerned for the girl! She got bitten by a dolphin! Although this one is probably as healthy as a captive dolphin can be, I don’t want bites or scratches or any other puncture wounds from any animal.

Their teeth are not for chewing or tearing like a normal carnivore. They swallow their food whole. Ive been bitten several times by dolphins and rarely got more than scratches.

From the nearby thread about animals having a sense of humor:

Commonly, animals in captivity tend to be kind of stupid about swallowing things they shouldn’t – probably more so than street-smart animals in the wild. Fubaya is probably correct that a wild animal would probably have better sense about what to eat.

Dolphins have extremely limited digestive systems. They can digest fish (including the skin, scales, and bones). But they can’t digest plant material (cellulose in particular) at all – not even slightly. Tiny pieces might pass through. Larger amounts might get stuck in one of the dolphin’s stomachs (there are two, IIRC) forever, or until the stuff just rots there.

But on the other hand, you have to trick them to swallow their pills. Captive dolphins are commonly fed specially formulated vitamin supplements that somebody somewhere decided they probably need. We stuck them inside a fish and fed that to the dolphin. Our dolphins didn’t like eating those fish. They could always tell which fish had the pills in them. So we shoveled a bunch of fish into the dolphin, one at a time, rapid-pace, with the pill fish in the midst of them. As long as there was another fish coming immediately following the pill fish, the dolphin would gulp it down so as to be ready to eat the next fish.

Dolphins are very imitative, and tend to copy any behavior they observe as best they can. (The same post quotes above also tells of one dolphin learning to twirl a frisbee on its snout just from watching the other. Karen Pryor tells of a dolphin that accidentally got brought in (instead of a different dolphin) to perform a show that it was never trained for. That dolphin managed to perform the whole show kinda-sorta-passably-well, just from having watched the other dolphin do it every day.

There is a story out there of a dolphin who lived in a tank with a manatee. The manatee ate sea grass. The dolphin got sick after a while and died. Upon necropsy (autopsy for animals), they found its stomach was packed solid full of undigested sea grass. The dolphin had gotten into the habit of eating the manatee’s grass. Oops.

Yes, AaronX dolphins have teeth. Bottlenosed dolphins have 88 of them! Every one is a sharp pointed canine-type tooth, like little icepicks. There are no molars, bicuspids, or incisors. Captive dolphins, once tamed, tend to be friendly playful non-agressive critters. Usually. But they are amazingly strong-minded. (I think they must have some dachshunds in their ancestry.) If you piss them off, they sometimes chomp you. For example, it was forbidden (by the dolphins) to try to pet them when they thought you should be busy thawing fish for them. They’d chomp you for that!

One game I played with them was pulling them around through the water. They always like that. I grab them by the tail and pull them backward a ways. (They have very tough tails, so this isn’t going to hurt them.) Then I’d grab them by the snout and pull them forward. They got in the habit of grabbing my arm or hand (with all 88 teeth!) and hanging on while I pulled them around. They were always very gentle about it. I’ve met a few other dolphins like that too. But I’ve also met a few dolphins who weren’t gentle like that.

Dolphins don’t really chomp down when they bite you. Rather, they slash with a sideways movement of the head. This leaves a bunch of long parallel teeth marks in you, which might be deep enough to draw blood. Even just playing (as described above), their teeth are still sharp and leave scratches.

One day, one of the dolphins took a real nasty chomp out of one of our volunteer assistants, for no obvious reason. She had several serious deep parallel slashed on her arm – enough to go to the hospital and have them all stitched up. Nobody had any idea what might have suddenly brought that on. Dolphins have minds of their own. The story came back that the hospital staff was fascinated, having never seen dolphin bites before. They had a staff artist come in to draw a detailed illustration of what an arm full of dolphin bites looks like.

Doctors Cheer As Feds Delay New Disease Codes, Again by Scott Hensley, February 16, 2012, on NPR

(Dolphin picture included!)

Picture of what dolphin tooth marks look like

Photo of dolphin tooth rake on a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin.

This is what a dolphin bite typically looks like. A nail-like puncture wound (apparently something like that little girl got) would be less common. If the dolphin was grabbing for a fish or something, then I suppose a puncture like that would happen.

Karen Pryor (in Lads Before The Wind) tells the story of a dolphin who swallowed a plastic fishing line float.

That really was likely to kill the dolphin. It didn’t eat for several days. They brought in an experienced dolphin doctor to consult. But there’s a problem: Since dolphins live underwater, they have to consciously come up for air regularly. It doesn’t happen autonomically. So they don’t breathe automatically like land mammals do. If you put them to sleep, they will stop breathing and die. So you can’t do surgery.

(That was 30-some years ago. I’ve read since that someone invented a respirator for dolphins so you can put them to sleep for surgery, and keep them breathing.)

They finally decided that a dolphin’s throat (being big enough to swallow fish whole) was probably big enough for someone to stick his arm down and try to grab the float. They got a tape measure and found that Tap Pryor had the longest arms. So while others tried to hold the dolphin still, he stuck his arm down and succeeded in pulling the float out of the dolphin.

(IIRC, there’s a photo in the book of that.)

I’ve also read since, that the technique has been borrowed and used elsewhere. I think there was a story of a captive dolphin that swallowed a metal bolt, where they had to do that.

If you go to any marine animal park, like Sea World, you might notice that when you buy a beverage in a paper cup, they never come with plastic straws. At some parks, they don’t give out straws at all.

People being the poorly trained wild animals they are, tend to do really stupid things like letting their straws fall into the water. Captive animals tend to swallow things like that.

A plastic straw inside any animal is very likely to be deadly. There’s no way the animal can digest it or otherwise get rid of it, and there’s no way it could pass through the intestines and out the other end. It just clogs up the works and the animal either gets sick or starves and dies. There are stories out there of things like that happening.

I would think even a paper straw might be dangerous. Dolphins wouldn’t be able to digest it. I don’t know if it would be able to pass through once it got soaked and mushy enough. And I don’t know anything about sea lions’ digestive systems.

Probably depends on how clean they keep the water in the tank.

Note the photo in the article linked a few posts above. (The one about new medical codes for dolphin bites.) The water in that tank looks crystal clear.

Dolphins don’t chew their food, and they open their mouths a lot so the mouth is constantly rinsed with the surrounding water. So a dolphin’s mouth is going to be exactly as dirty as the surrounding water, neither more nor less.

At our lab, we kept the tanks immaculately clean. There was a constant flow of clean sea water pumped in, from a well 40 feet deep in the sand. So the water was filtered through 40 feet of sand. (As noted in the animal humor thread, the dolphins liked to put a frisbee over the drain so the tank would overflow.) Also, we drained the tank every weekend and got all the volunteer staff in there scrubbing the walls and floor and spraying clorox on them. We took water samples every week and sent them to some public sanitation lab to be analyzed for bacteria or any other particulates. The water was always clean.

I always let the dolphins chew on my arm when I played with them. They were gentle about it. Occasionally I got scratched up a bit, and people got bitten now and then. I don’t think there was anything to worry about anybody getting any kind of infection. Some other places (like in the picture mentioned) keep their water really cleans.

OTOH, I’ve seen dolphins in other places where the walls were green with algae and other fun stuff growing, and sometimes the water was greenish. One place I saw, the water was so green you could barely see the dolphins in it, even close up. I would worry about anybody getting bitten someplace like that.

I was thinking more of what lived inside the dolphin’s mouth (and on its body) rather than what was just lurking in the water, although you’re also right.

It is very likely the dolphin (like other animals) had commensal microbes in its mouth.

My concern for puncture wounds has more to do with the fact that it can put otherwise OK and harmless microbes in places that are not good (doesn’t matter microbial origin). Well, awesome for the microbes, not good for the human.

And I realize this is a captive dolphin, which is slightly better since wild dolphins are carriers for other diseases that can affect humans.

BTW, when I was a kid, I also went to feed the dolphins at Sea World. :slight_smile: This was before I realized it was slightly the equivalent of hand-feeding a cheetah with fresh puppy kill. :wink:

Well, the little girl is cute as a button! And the dolphin…

Kidding aside, I was being facetious. There’s nothing adorable about a little child being bitten by a wild animal. Although, to be fair, I don’t want to over-state the supposed trauma of it all. The parents have said that the little lass was more concerned for the dolphin than for her own injuries. She said she and her family even prayed for the dolphin. Awww… :frowning: