On the Brazilian coast, a couple hundred miles south of São Paulo, lies the small town of Laguna.
Laguna is very much like most other small coastal towns in Brazil, with many people relying heavily on fishing to provide both food and income.
However, the fishermen of Laguna have a truly remarkable secret weapon: a pod of about 20 bottlenose dolphins. Check it out in this awesome video from the BBC series Human Planet:
This interaction is a beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship, one in which both species benefit from cooperation.
The dolphins help the fishermen by herding fish into shallower waters along the shore. Once the fish are bunched, the dolphins use specialized head or tail slaps to show the fishermen where to cast their nets.
Not only does it make fishing much easier and more effective, it also saves the fishermen the trouble of having to go out into deeper waters to find fish.
When the fishermen cast their nets, it startles the schools of fish, causing them to split up and swim in random directions. This makes it much easier for the dolphins to pick them off as they try to escape.
The dolphins help provide fish to over 200 families in Laguna who have no other source of income.
Over the years, the fishermen have become intimately familiar with many of the dolphins, even naming them. Some of the most skilled dolphins, like “Scooby” and “Caroba”, have been working with the fishermen for more than 15 years.
Recently, a group of researchers decided to study the unique interactions.
Fábio Daura-Jorge, who works at the University of Santa Catarina in Brazil, was one of the leading researchers.
He pointed out that although this relationship is very unique, it’s not altogether surprising when you consider how social dolphins are as a species:
“Dolphin societies are very complex, and social interaction seems to drive foraging behavior…
It might be that the development of specialized foraging behavior occurs in small tight-knit resident coastal communities because there is a high degree of social interaction between the animals.”
He also stressed just how important the dolphins are to the way of life for the fishing families of Laguna:
“The fish provided from the cooperation with dolphins has an important economic and social value that has to be considered…
Essentially, if we lose the cooperative dolphins, we lose this unique traditional way of life and vice versa.”
Read more from Live Science here.