During some of my dives I sometimes asked myself this question: are marine animals playing?

If we consider that playing is a free activity. Mental, physical or social and based on pleasure. We are entitled to ask the question of whether marine animals are capable of such behavior.

Playing is a vital aspect of animal behavior. It promotes mental, physical, and social development. But do marine animals engage in play? Observations suggest they do. Dolphins, for example, are known for their playful antics. They exhibit behaviors akin to human play. From acrobatics to games with objects, dolphins demonstrate a playful nature. Similarly, other marine animals, like seals and otters, engage in playful behaviors. These activities serve various purposes, from honing skills to social bonding. Studying play in marine animals sheds light on their cognitive abilities and social dynamics. It challenges traditional views of animal behavior. Understanding play in marine animals enriches our appreciation of their lives. As stewards of the ocean, we must respect and protect their right to play. It’s an integral part of their well-being. Through responsible practices and conservation efforts, we can ensure marine animals thrive in their natural habitats.

They are curious, this seems obvious to me.

These red fish that swim and swim in front of the lens of your camera. Trumpet fish who follow the divers so close and stick their eyes so close to their diving masks. These octopuses who come willingly to touch your torch if you stay still ( we had seen here together their intelligent behaviors), …

But are marine animals playing ?

Here, it is important to distinguish between mammals, fish and molluscs.

Until recently, it was usual to say that molluscs and fish were not able to carry out playful activities.

Yet, in 2014, researchers at the University of Tennessee were able to determine that young fish could develop gaming behaviors including jousting whose objective is to learn how to fight in adulthood. So does marine animals play ?

It seems that fishs are also growing up playing just like our little ones.

But if these behaviors are difficult to observe with fish. It is not the same for mammals as dolphins. Regularly exploited for their competence to play by the marine parks )

To my delight, I had the opportunity to observe a while ago a dolphin playing with his fish exactly like a cat with his mouse. I told you that in this article about diving in Elphinstone.

Observing marine animals’ behaviors can be fascinating. Unlike fish, dolphins’ playful antics are easier to see. They’re often utilized for entertainment in marine parks, which is controversial. Recently, I witnessed a dolphin playing with its fish prey. It reminded me of a cat with a mouse. This encounter happened during a dive at Elphinstone. Dolphins’ intelligence and playfulness never fail to captivate. Their behavior offers insights into their complex lives. We must respect marine animals’ natural behaviors. They deserve dignity and protection in their ocean home. As divers, we’re privileged to witness their world. Let’s strive to be responsible stewards of the marine environment.

Fun, right?

Feel free to tell us your personal observations, on the marine animals that play around the world in cold or warm waters, in a comment below

Above all … do not forget to be very happy

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