Intoxicated Dolphins, Puffer Fish and Zombies

I ended yesterday with a quote from William Blake. Here’s another, this time from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

Aldous Huxley used that line for the title of his famous 1954 essay The Doors of Perception about his experience with the psychedelic drug mescaline. It was followed by another essay a few years later titled, what else but, Heaven and Hell.

Copies of those essays are available online here (under resources) and also a BBC video a long interview with Huxley.

Anyway talking about cleansing the doors of perception, a cameraperson working for a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) program (called A Spy in the Pod) has apparently filmed a wonderful and unexpected ritual among dolphins. While it is perhaps not news that our non-human kin like to get high (more about that in my upcoming monograph and some future blog entries) this particular procedure among these water bound mammals was never seen before.

The filmmakers used cameras disguised as squids and other marine life to get the shots.

Puffer fish are one of the animals that produce tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin they use as a chemical defence when threatened. Dolphins were filmed passing a puffer fish between them for almost a half-hour.

It seems that the dolphins induce the fish to produce the neurotoxin and are able to make contact with just enough of it to produce a “trance like
state”. The program’s producer, who is also a zoologist is quoted as saying that the dolphins mastery of the procedure indicated that it wasn’t their first attempt at this According to media reports the film shows dolphins floating just below the water’s surface, seemingly totally absorbed by

For a very different look at the possible impacts of tetrodotoxin you could take a look at Donna Zuckerbrot’s film Zombies: when the dead walk.
Among other things it tells the story of anthropologist Wade Davis and his often misunderstood claim about the role played by puffer fish tetradotoxin in the process used to produce real zombies by traditional Haitian Voodoo sorcerers.
You can find a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio interview with Wade about all this here.