by Jerry Vovcsko
Okay, so now we hear that you can legally buy marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. Swell! Let the puffing begin. But it seems some of Mother Nature's critters are one step ahead of us already. A recently filmed documentary appears to demonstrate that dolphins can get high on Puffer Fish.
Whereas adventurous humans may get a rush out of flirting with death by eating a piece of puffer fish, dolphins may experience something completely different. Filmmakers at John Downer Productions recorded the dolphins snacking on the puffer fish for the documentary "Dolphins: Spy in the Pod." After eating the puffer fish, the dolphins seemed to enter a trance-like state.
"[They were] hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection," John Downer, executive producer of the documentary, told International Business Times. "It reminded us of that craze a few years ago when people started licking toads to get a buzz."
However not everyone agrees that the dolphins were doing the marine version of a Cheech and Chong ganja-fest. Christie Wilcox, author of Discover's Science Sushi blog and a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, said that while dolphins were curious animals, she found it hard to believe that they were chasing the fish for a high.
"The puffer fish's tetrodotoxin shuts down nerve cells, but it doesn't cross the blood brain barrier," she told ABC News. "It's not like recreational drugs that have some effect on the brain, so I find it hard to believe that it would be pleasurable."
In addition, she said that if the dolphins really wanted to get high, there were other sea critters that would fit the bill. "In many areas of the world, sea bream are known to produce vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, much like tripping on acid," she said. "And of course, people have used them recreationally."
That's certainly reassuring news for those of us troubled by the notion that lovable, old Flipper has been tripping in a cloud of boo-smoke and hanging out in some remote coral patch just one toke over the line.
Meanwhile, leave it to the Australians to take a Shootout-at-the-OK-Corral approach to the problem of shark attacks on bathers. Politicians have launched a series of measures declaring that sharks longer than 3 meters (10 feet) that get near popular beaches in Western Australia will be caught, shot and dumped back into the sea, in an attempt to reduce public anxiety over attacks. Details of the Western Australia government's controversial "shark management" strategy have been recently released, with sharks bigger than 3 meters singled out for shooting and then discarding offshore.
A tender released by the government calls for an "experienced licensed commercial fishing organization" to deploy and maintain up to 72 drum lines off popular beaches in Perth and elsewhere along the south-west coast. The drum lines, containing a hook with bait on them, will catch and, eventually, kill passing sharks that come within 1km of the beach.
Should a live white shark, tiger shark or bull shark longer than 3 meters be found on the drum lines, they will be "humanely destroyed" with a firearm, according to the tender documents. Shark corpses will be then tagged and taken further out to sea and dumped. Other animals caught on the baited hooks will be released alive "where possible".
The drum lines will be patrolled by boats for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, until April. Only contractors' vessels will be allowed within a 50-metre exclusion zone set up around the drum lines. The state government said the tender was a "direct response" to the "unprecedented" number of shark attacks off the Western Australia coast. Surfer Chris Boyd, 35, was killed following a shark attack in November, becoming the sixth swimmer or surfer to die from shark-inflicted injuries in the past two years.
Predictably, scientists and animal welfare groups have labelled the strategy barbaric and even counter-productive. Christopher Neff, who has completed the first PhD on the "politics of shark attacks" at the University of Sydney, told Guardian Australia there was "no evidence" that baited drum lines reduced the risk of a shark bite.
"There is evidence that drum lines draw white sharks in, but I am unclear on how this is meant to reduce the risk to the public," he said. "If the point is to symbolically kill a protected species for political gain then it will be successful, but if the point is to protect the public from sharks this policy will likely be a failure."
Well, I suppose the plan may not be very effective in preventing shark attacks on humans but it may well bring a few extra votes for politicians promoting the idea and that's probably the bottom line. I think it was cowboy-comedian Will Rogers who said "The more I see of politicians, the better I like dogs." Or maybe it was W. C. Fields…point is, it's one of the dumbest ideas to surface lately and here's hoping it fades into oblivion. Along with the politicians that dreamed it up.
That "vortex" of Arctic air swirling down our way from Canada has turned New England into a veritable deep freeze with below-zero windchills and warnings from the weather folk not to step outdoors with any skin exposed lest we become instant victims of the dreaded "frostbite". It's cold, yes, but reasonable care in dressing with layers of warm clothes should make outdoor excursions plenty safe. And that cold snap we're experiencing is also producing ever-thickening depths of ice cover for local ponds. Four inches of hard water is the target anglers seek to make it safe to get out there with tip-ups, shacks and other gear. Another couple days of near-zero temperatures should see local ponds sporting four-or-more surface cover; be aware, however, of creek inflows, subsurface springs and other anomalies that can drop an unwary angler in the drink. An impromptu bath in thirty-six degree water is no fun.
My New England Patriots go up against the Indianapolis Colts and their young prodigy quarterback Andrew Luck this Saturday. The Pats, behind their newfound running game featuring LeGarret Blount and Stevan Ridley, should emerge with a win. And if the Broncos take care of business out in Denver, fans may yet get to see a shootout between the Pats' QB Tom Brady and the Broncos' Peyton Manning. And that might just be one for the ages.