Featured Image Credit: www.dolphins.com.au
By: Nazifa Islam
If you were to go out to a populated street and ask a number of people who the smartest water animal was, chances are 8/10 would say a dolphin.
We generally think of dolphins as those cute friendly creatures who will lean in for a kiss when you try to take a picture … but there is so much more to them. Why do so many people think of them as intelligent and when asked why can’t they give us definite reasons? What makes a dolphin so smart?
Here is everything you need to know about the history and the brain structure/behavior of dolphins. Let us know if you agree!
The first land mammals to ever enter the water 55 million years ago were deemed as large predators with sharp teeth. About 35 million years ago there was a shift in ocean temperature which drastically reduced the amount of prey.
The group that survived were the odontocetes and they later evolved to be smaller and with less sharp teeth, known as cetaceans. Dr. Lori Marino has researched and found that dolphins belong to the aquatic animal group comprised of 86 different species referred to as cetaceans. Cetaceans share a common link with ungulates which are hoofed animals. However, their larger and more complex brain makes it possible for social relationships and echolocation, a vital component in communication and navigation.
Modern day dolphin’s brain size compared to their body size is second only to humans.
A study in Florida found dolphins participate in a group hunting method where they work together in precise planning when it comes to catching the most fish. Dolphins will circle themselves in an area to make sure no fish escape while other dolphins will come in and grab the fish for food.
They pass down their communication method from generation to generation. This is not to say that dolphins act the same. It may depend on their location and whether or not they are held in captivity. Dolphin populations differ with their various habits, hunting strategies and communication methods.
As observed by researchers and scientists, one group of bottlenose dolphins off the Australian coast, nicknamed the dolphin sponge club, has learned to cover their rostrums with sponges when rooting in sharp corals.
Dolphins have also demonstrated advanced language comprehension. When taught a language based on whistles and hand gestures, they not only understood what they signal meant, but quickly understood that there was an order attached with it. They are able to understand the two parts of human language –symbols that stand for objects and actions as well as the syntax which governs how they are structured.
Dolphins are also one of the few species who pass the mirror test. Recognizing oneself in the mirror indicates physical self-awareness. Research shows dolphins can not only recognize their bodies, but also their thoughts, which is a property known as metacognition. In another study, dolphins comparing two sounds could indicate a same, different, or uncertain response.
Just like humans, they indicated uncertainty more frequently with difficult trials, suggesting they’re aware of what they know and how confident they feel about that knowledge. This demonstrates that they their only expertise is not just physical awareness but mental awareness as well.
With all things aside, one of the most amazing things about dolphins are their sense of empathy, altruism, and attachment. The habit of helping injured individuals extends across the species barrier as experienced of the many accounts of dolphins carrying humans to the surface to breathe. And like us, dolphins mourn their dead.
Intelligence is a term with many definitions and interpretations. It’s difficult enough to measure in humans let alone other animals. Charles Darwin’s theory bases intelligence on the ability of a species to recognize what it needs to survive, while other schools of thought argue the the size and architecture of the brain, the ability to communicate, or the ability to exhibit playfulness are the most prominent indicators.
Dolphins have two hemispheres just like humans, however, theirs are split into four lobes instead of three like ours. The fourth lobe in the dolphin’s brain hosts all of the senses, whereas in a human, the senses are split. Some believe that having all of the senses in one lobe allow the dolphin to make immediate and many times complicated judgments that are well beyond the scope of a human ability, making them extremely intelligent. It’s clear that dolphins are the most intelligent water animal, but I guess the real thought you should be left wondering is, will dolphins one day be smarter than us?