The discovery that dolphins have the ability to switch diabetes on and off could lead to a treatment and cure for the disease in humans.
Scientists found that the mammal can induce the condition when there is little food around and turn it off when food is abundant.
Scientists from the US National Marine Mammal Foundation said that bottlenose dolphins are resistant to insulin - just like people with diabetes only in dolphins, this resistance is switched on and off.
They believe it is a unique ability in the animal kingdom and results from the mammal’s need to maintain high blood sugar levels to feed its big brain.
But they also believe it is an ability that humans have lost through evolution and that studying dolphins could lead to techniques to re-activate it.
“Diabetes now accounts for five per cent of human deaths globally,” said Dr Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist and director of Clinical Research at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego.
“It is our hope that this discovery can lead to novel ways to prevent, treat and maybe even cure diabetes in humans.”
The researchers presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.