Dolphins seemingly cracking up at the site of a sluggish sloth is the positive vibe we all need right now. The Texas State Aquarium, which is temporarily closed until May 1 due to COVID-19, shared images of their resident dolphins hanging out upside-down to Facebook on March 26.
“With the Aquarium temporarily closed, Chico the sloth had the opportunity for an up-close and personal meeting with some of our dolphins,” wrote the aquarium in a Facebook post. “Liko and Schooner were very curious, and Liko was even inspired to attempt an upside-down sloth impression!”
The aquarium is home to four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, including two others named Shadow and Kai, all of whom were born into a protective environment and are unable to be released into the wild. Dolphins are one of the smartest animal species on Earth, known for their playful behavior and ability to not only learn but also to apply that knowledge to new or challenging situations, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation. The social mammals live in large groups, known as pods, sometimes containing 1,000 individuals or more that hunt and play together, as well as help to raise offspring.
The toothed-cetaceans have an encephalization quotient (brain size relative to body size) that is second only to humans, according to a TED-Ed talk given by neuroscientist Lori Marino. Dolphins are also deemed empathetic, with many anecdotal accounts of the marine mammals bringing drowning humans to the surface to breathe, according to National Geographic.
“These dolphins are amazing ambassadors to their cousins the wild, helping us raise awareness of the threats faced by marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. In Dolphin Bay, you can learn how fishing line entanglement, pollution, disease, and other harmful human activity endangers dolphins, and what we all can do to help them survive,” writes the aquarium on its website.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the common bottlenose dolphin is a species of least concern around the planet, though they remain threatened mainly by human activities. Found in equatorial waters around the planet, Tursiops truncates are among the most commonly distributed cetaceans around the world with an estimated 750,000 individuals in tropical and temperate waters both in and offshore.