|I am curious if dolphins ever have itches?
|Question Date: 2017-02-23|
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.
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!
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
here . Thank you for the question!
They almost certainly do, but probably don't react
to them the same way we humans do.
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