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A selfie mob in Argentina may have killed a dolphin

Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

Two things are undoubtedly true about dolphins. One is that they are awesome. The second is that they belong in the sea.

A group of tourists in Argentina recently were so overcome by that first truism that they neglected the second. According to multiple news reports, a mob on a beach in Argentina accidentally killed a dolphin while passing it around in order to take selfies with it.

(Update: According to the Guardian, a witness on the scene said the dolphin was already dead when people started to pass it around. Either way, there's something a bit off about a dolphin being passed around among a crowd for selfies.)

A photo posted by Maarttina✨ (@martudiiaz) on

"It was still being passed around by the beachgoers after its death and was later left discarded in the sand," Sky News reports.

The Argentinian arm of the World Wildlife Fund released a statement saying that this species of dolphin — the Franciscana or La Plata, as it is called — is vulnerable for extinction. The "potential of recovery of this species is very low," the WWF wrote, which makes the death all the more tragic.

Instead of scolding, the WWF used the incident as a teaching moment.

"The occasion serves to inform the public about the urgent need to return to these dolphins to sea before the encounter with one on the shore," the statement read (originally in Spanish, translated here via Google).

(The Argentinian WWF tweeted out this image, which reads, "If you see a Franciscana dolphin, help to return it to the water. Situations like the one in this photo can lead to the death of the animal.")

Perhaps this is an area for further psychological research: What is it about the desire to post photos to Instagram and social media that leads to these selfie mobs? Like the rush to be the first person in a big-box store on Black Friday, there's something about selfie culture that makes people disregard their decency for the sake of a photo.

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