Dolphins are considered to be one the smartest non-human animals. Investigations into their cognitive prowess have revealed that they are capable of complex communication, possess a high level of self-awareness, solve tricky puzzles, and engage in cooperative hunting and play.
Yet one facet of intelligence that we tend to ignore in other species is a possible sense of humor.
And although it might be hard to prove scientifically, there is compelling anecdotal evidence that dolphins are downright sassy.
Case in point – a leaping dolphin knocked over an Australian paddleboarder in a move that can only be described as deliberate.
Last week, 54-year-old Andrew Hill was enjoying a day of paddling on the waters off Gracetown, a beach town south of Perth, when a pod of dolphins appeared in the surf beyond him.
Cruising through the waves in a line, dorsal fins slicing the surface, the dozen or so cetaceans appeared to be in a hunting formation. Hill was not concerned to be in their path, however, and kept moving toward them.
“It’s good to see dolphins,” Hill explained to 7News Perth about his thoughts at the time. “Surfers like seeing dolphins.”
Sadly, it turns out that dolphins don’t always like seeing surfers. As captured in a now-viral video by other beach-goers, one of the marine mammals leaped out of the water and body slammed Hill with impressive precision.
“One of them for some reason decided to jump out of the water and took me out quite well. It was a fairly legal hit and shoulder I think,” Hill joked, comparing the experience to a fair play rugby tactic for bumping one’s opponent.
Watching the footage on repeat – something we have definitely done – fails to illuminate any reasonable explanation for the aerial take-down other than the dolphin’s desire to do so.
“Hat off to him, he collected me really well.”
Whether the dolphin's motivation stemmed from an appreciation of slapstick comedy or was simply the result of unsophisticated irritation is something we will never know. But one comical outcome that science can confirm for us? The pod could have used their ability to gossip to talk smack about Hill afterward.