The Ultimate Dolphin Trick

A very short book excerpt

Joe McKendry / The Atlantic

In a South African aquarium lived a baby Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin named Dolly. One day, when she was just six months old, Dolly was watching a trainer standing at the window smoking a cigarette, blowing puffs of smoke. Dolly swam to her mother, briefly suckled, then returned to the window and released a cloud of milk that engulfed her head. The trainer was “absolutely astonished.” Dolly didn’t “copy” (she wasn’t really smoking) or imitate with intent to achieve the same purpose. Somehow Dolly came up with the idea of using milk to represent smoke. Using one thing to represent something else isn’t just mimicking. It is art.

— Adapted from Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina (published by Henry Holt in July)