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I am curious if dolphins ever have itches?
Question Date: 2017-02-23
Answer 1:

Yes, marine mammals such as seals, whales, and dolphins have been known to scratch themselves. The sensation of itchiness is generally thought to help an animal locate something on its skin that shouldn’t be there, such as an insect. In the case of marine mammals, the issue isn’t insects, but rather various parasites such as whale lice or barnacles. If a dolphin had lice, it would probably brush against random surfaces to scratch them off. Whales are well known to get all sorts of crustacean parasites and may have as many as 7500 whale lice! The whale lice can cause minor skin damage so any marine mammal that has them will want to scratch them off.

Answer 2:

That is an interesting question. Since we can’t necessarily ask a dolphin (there are researchers working on this however) one approach would be to ask what features of the human skin and/or nervous system leads to itching and do those same features exist in dolphins. The itch is a general sensation that comes from irritated skin and/or nerve cells. Although a dolphin’s skin looks very different from ours, it still has skin and nerve cells so I imagine that yes they can get an itch. Another approach would be to ask if dolphins rub against surfaces as if they have an itch. Maybe you could find some videos of dolphin behavior to investigate this further. Good luck!

Answer 3:

I think this is a really interesting question because it immediately leads to so many more questions. If dolphins do experience itches, how do they scratch themselves? Scientists that research itches know that they are caused by irritation of skin or nerve cells associated with the skin. Your brain senses the irritation in your skin and sends a signal that causes that area to itch. When you scratch at an itch, you send a bunch of signals back up to your brain, overstimulating that part of the brain, which then causes the itching signal to stop. Any animal with a nervous and integumentary (skin) system like ours should be able to experience itches, and dolphins are no exception. Dolphins have been observed scratching themselves on the bottom of their tanks and it is very likely that they behave very similarly in the wild. I have actually found a YouTube video of this happening: watch here . Thank you for the question!

Answer 4:

They almost certainly do, but probably don't react to them the same way we humans do.

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