Dolphins’ habitat shapes DNA

Bottlenose dolphins who use sponges as tools experience changes to their genetic make-up as a result, research shows.

Researchers observed and analysed the DNA of dolphins in western Shark Bay, north of Perth. Some of the dolphins put marine sponges on their beaks while looking for food on the sea floor – a non-genetic skill believed to be learned from their mothers.

Researchers, led by Dr Anna Kopps, found dolphins who lived in areas where sponges grow had a particular type of genetic makeup. Those who lived where sponges didn’t grow also mainly fell into a certain genetic group.

This is the first study that has shown a link between how social experiences and habitats shape genetics within a single animal population.

Read more at UNSW