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How A Scientific Experiment Led To Sexual Encounters Between A Woman And A Dolphin

Updated February 26, 2020 772.8k views11 items

Margaret Howe Lovatt was a young research assistant when a scientist asked if she would isolate herself and live with a dolphin to see if the creatures could learn to speak in the human language. Sure, that's pretty odd, but it actually gets stranger. The experiment allegedly led to a dolphin developing romantic feelings for Lovatt. Eventually, sexual encounters between the woman and the dolphin took place. While the pair never had actual intercourse, the controversy surrounding the experiment gave rise to uncomfortable questions. Can humans and dolphins have sex? Why was Lovatt giving a dolphin a handjob? 

Dolphins are sexually frisky creatures in almost any setting. They've been known to be sexually aggressive, to the point where dolphins can sexually assault people and are more promiscuous than many other wild creatures. Still, dolphins having sex with humans is virtually unheard of, especially in a scientific setting. This scandalous experiment is one filled with drugs, misplaced romantic feelings, sexual deviance, and tragedy. Be warned: there are sexual interspecies topics below. Read at your own caution. 

  • No Talking Was Happening, So Lilly Gave The Dolphins LSD

    Photo: Erik Fenderson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Throughout the experiment of trying to teach dolphins the human language, Lilly wasn't getting the results he'd hoped for. There was no human-level talking going on.

    At some point, Lilly decided to take matters into his own hands and injected the dolphins with LSD. Lovatt did not approve, but as a mere assistant, she felt powerless to stop it - though she kept Peter safe from the drug. While it didn't seem that the drug had any effect on the other two dolphins, Lilly claimed that they were much more vocal after being injected. His funding organizations did not agree. The lab director couldn't stand the treatment of the animals, so he left.

    Soon after, the experiment's funding was completely cut. Lovatt, who had lived with Peter for six months, was told that the dolphins would be moved to a different facility. She and Peter were permanently separated. 

  • After Being Separated From Lovatt, Peter Took His Life

    What became of Peter? Peter was moved to a small lab in Miami, where it was obvious to the people who worked with Peter that he was distressed. His health and mental state began to decline. After only a few weeks at this new lab, Peter died of suicide. Allegedly, the dolphin simply sank to the bottom of the tank and refused to go to the surface to breathe. He let himself drown.

    Peter's death has largely been blamed on the carelessness of Lilly and his team. As a result of the dolphin's tragic end, the romantic interspecies relationship that was allowed to occur in the name of science has been criticized as "cruel" and shortsighted. 

  • Lovatt Eventually Married The Project's Photographer

    Video: YouTube

    What became of Lovatt? She had a rather happy ending, despite all the rumors and controversy surrounding the experiment. Lovatt became very close to the photographer of the experiment, a man by the name of John Lovatt. She left the experiment to be with him. The two were eventually married and had children together.

    Oddly, after some time had passed, the Lovatt family decided to move back to the scene of Lovatt's most scandalous experience. They stayed on the island and bought the house that had once been the dolphinarium. In the end, Lovatt looks back fondly on the experiment, and what it has meant to others:

    Over the years, I have received letters from people who are working with dolphins themselves... They often say things like: 'When I was seven, I read about you living with a dolphin, and that's what started it all for me.