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Sponge Moms: Dolphins learn tool use from their mothers

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11:47am, June 8, 2005

Bottlenose dolphins that carry sea sponges on their beaks probably learned the trick from their moms rather than inheriting a sponge-shuttling gene, researchers say.

The sponges appear to protect the dolphins' beaks during foraging along rugged ocean bottoms, explains Michael Krützen of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. In search of the behavior's origin, he and an international team of collaborators studied the genetics of the sponging dolphins, known only in Australia's Shark Bay.

The researchers say that the spongers belong almost exclusively to a single maternal lineage, although sponging doesn't follow any of the pa

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