We have come to think of dolphins as intelligent mammals; the sages of the sea, who have even been known to save a human or two caught in troubled waters. That status is now under review following groundbreaking research about to be published by The University of Plymouth.
The high pitched whistles and clicks emitted by dolphins have long been assumed to be signs of a highly social, developed species. Scientists now believe dolphins are not only talking to each other - they are also making disparaging comments about humans.
One of the researchers, Adam Minghold, originally from West Yorks, has had enough after a trip to the aquatic zoo with his niece turned sour. ''We came for a nice day out. I've spent several years decoding dolphin speech so I can interpret what they're saying. Part of me wishes I hadn't translated for Milly but I can't keep quiet while they behave like this. She has a right to know.''
Mr Minghold was too upset to confirm the details of the incident, but it is believed a dolphin called his niece a skinny tart, and suggested a chocolate ice cream stain on her vest was the imprint of a monkey's balls after she'd had relations with it. It also made some rather cutting remarks about her northern English accent and her chances of success in life.
''They are a bunch of fucking bastards. I hate them,'' sobbed Milly Taylor, 7. It's safe to assume the family won't be returning to the zoo anytime soon. A spokesperson for the attraction confirmed they have denied a request to have the animal destroyed. There is no dolphin equivalent of The Dangerous Dogs Act, and it would be unlikely to cover verbal attacks in any case.
''This is an outrage,'' said animal activist Joanna Ray. ''They need to remember this is our planet and we let them live here. For years I've campaigned to make fishing nets more dolphin friendly,'' added Ms Ray, in a reference to how dolphins get unwittingly caught up in them. ''Now I say let the tuna escape and we'll have a bit of dolphin for tea.''
Head of Research at University of Plymouth, Kirsty Bate, is suspicious of the dolphins' tendency to get caught up in fishing nets. ''Some theorists think it's no accident. They want to get caught so they can insult your Average Joe in a Sea Life Centre.''
As the interview progressed, it became clear that Mrs Bate had a grudging admiration for them. ''It's not okay, but I am impressed. The fact that these beautiful creatures can see a young girl walk past and give a fairly accurate flash assessment of her class background and social mobility, well, it's scary, too, I guess.''
A review of published journal articles revealed the behaviour is not restricted to wild specimens. ''It seems to be an innate ability and doesn't matter whether they are born in the sea or in captivity. They're just a bit smug and full of themselves,'' offered Mrs Bate.
The implications of the findings don't end there. The late anthropologist Dennis Rongalley posited a theory in the 1950's suggesting dolphins played an indirect part in human evolution.
''The Gorilla and Chimpanzee were once confined to beaches, but the sarcastic nature of dolphins drove them inland, and that's when their development and diversity really took hold. It was a Cambrian-esque moment for bi-pedals,'' he says in a 1954 article. Mr Rongalley died in 1957 after his theory was ridiculed for being 'dangerous and stupid.' His funding was cut and he eventually died of starvation.
A group of students at his former employer, University of Middle Teeside, took up the reins of his work. ''Beach Evac Theory makes more sense in light of the research. Why would any creature living by the seaside give it up on a whim? They were displaced by a clever, class aware set of dolphins,'' said Adam Fird, 21.
Advocates of meat eating didn't miss their opportunity to weigh in, either. ''We know people in the UK are disgusted by cultures that eat cats and dogs, and rightly so. Then there's the ones who say pigs are too intelligent and we shouldn't eat them out of respect,'' said Ted Cooper, 67, an employee at Militant Meat Co. Butchers. ''But what if certain animals are just too clever for their own good, and bastards with it? We need more research like this to find out what other animals really think about us.''
The public have begun to ask politicians what they intend to do to rectify this situation. A clerk for local government may have found a solution. A centuries old decree states what councils can do with nonconformists who threaten our way of life.
Banish them to the sea.