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Why are dolphins so smart?


It seems that dolphins have (among?) the highest encephalization quotients found outside of humans, higher even than chimpanzees. By the "use it or lose it" principle this indicates that intelligence must be particularly valuable in their niche. Why is that? They are predatory and social, and both of those are associated with intelligence, but why are dolphins smarter than other predatory pack animals? For example, is there something about being an air-breathing organism living in water that makes having a high EQ particularly adaptive?


It's less about the brain size, I think, more about the metabolic cost of brains. Brains are among the most costly organs to keep what it comes to oxygen demand. Air-breathing increases available oxygen for the body, hence mammals have larger brains that for example fish.

In diving animals the metabolic cost of brains is connected to the diving time (can't find the reference at the moment). Sperm whales shut down parts of their brains on long dives and do not have particularly active brains in general. Dolphins are mostly shallow diving animals. Maybe the selection favors higher brain metabolism potentially increasing the ability to catch prey and avoid predators? Pure speculation, though.


It might not fully answer your question…

Cost of having a heavy brain

Generally speaking, having a heavy organ is an important cost for flying animals, a medium cost for terrestrial animals and a low cost for marine animals. Loosely speaking, the principle "use it or lose it" does not apply with the same strength in all animals in regards to brain weight. If you create a regression between "intelligence" and "need of being intelligent"(supposing it means something!) in terrestrial mammals and add the dolphin on your graph, you might be surprised that the dolphin does not fit on the regression but it might only be due to the fact that they live in water which is much more dense than air so that it is less costly to carry a big brain. So, yes there might have something to do with "living in the water".

Indexes of intelligence

EQ does not mean intelligence! It is just an index. And we have to understand that people first were happy to think that humans are very smart because they have a big brain but they were terribly confused when they've learned that sperm whales brain weight 8kg! So they tried finding other indexes. EQ is one of them and we're quite happy to use it because it places humans at the first position. But it does not mean that this index is a good representation of intelligence. Some small birds with their tiny brain were shown to be have a spatial memory that is much more efficient that the one of humans for example.

Something else. When looking at these indexes one should not forget that size (or weight) does not equals efficiency. Let's make an analogy with computers. You can have a good software or a good hardware. Big brains are not necessarily very efficient!


Now, it is still true that dolphins are good at performing many tasks that we link to the concept of intelligence. Dolphins have complex social organization that is probably link with their intelligence. I would tend to think (just a guess) that there are many social factors involved into the evolution of their cognitive abilities. Because the social structure changes as cognitive abilities evolves, it seems to me quite hard to know what factors made that clever individuals were more fit than stupid ones at every moment during the evolution of dolphins. But I might overlook the complexity of the problem. And I honestly never learned any article concerning the role or the evolution of cognitive abilities in dolphins.


How intelligent are whales and dolphins?

Most people agree whales and dolphins are the ‘brainiacs’ of the sea. Over millions of years, their bodies, brains, sensory systems and intelligence have evolved and adapted for living rich and varied lives in water. These are all very different from our own, yet in many ways they are still more like us than you might suspect.

Whales and dolphins behave in ways that suggest intelligence and a sophisticated mind. Not only do they learn as individuals, but as individuals that can pass their knowledge onto others.

What is intelligence?

Intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn and apply knowledge to understand new or challenging situations and the ability to think abstractly. Dolphins demonstrate the ability to do all of these things and most scientists agree that dolphins are very intelligent. They are notoriously talented mimics and quick learners they demonstrate self-awareness, problem-solving, and empathy, innovation, teaching skills, grief, joy and playfulness.

How intelligent are whales and dolphins?

It’s a complicated question because it’s hard to compare a whale or a dolphin’s intelligence with our own, mainly as we can’t use the same methods to measure both. We can’t ask a dolphin to sit an IQ test or maths exam, or challenge a whale to build an engine or design a building. For a start, they don’t have hands and they communicate very differently from us. In fact, dolphins seem to have an almost unfathomable, alien intelligence, which is so unlike our own that perhaps a better question to ask is ‘How are whales and dolphins intelligent?’

This short video by renowned scientist Lori Marino, explains how dolphin intelligence evolved.

Big Brains

Whales and dolphins have large brains brainy dolphins have a brain to body ratio second only to humans. Large-brained creatures generally have a few things in common: they live long lives they are sociable their behaviour is complicated females give birth to only a few offspring throughout their lives and take extraordinary care of each baby while teaching them life skills the youngsters take their time to grow up, become sexually mature and independent of their mothers.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between our brains and that of dolphins and all toothed whales is that they have an entire area dedicated to echolocation. Dolphins can “see” with sonar and this skill or superpower is called echolocation. Sound travels much better in water than light does and so it makes more sense for dolphins to sense their surroundings with sound. Their echolocation abilities are phenomenal they can determine extraordinary details about everything around them. They use echolocation to hunt and navigate even in dark or murky water. Dolphins can check out each other's pregnancies and eavesdrop on the echolocating clicks of other dolphins to figure out what they’re looking at.

Whale and dolphin brains contain specialized brain cells called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognising, remembering, reasoning, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. So it seems they are deep thinkers! Not only that, but the part of their brain which processes emotions (limbic system) appears to be more complex than our own. Lori Marino a neuro-expert explains that ‘a dolphin alone is not really a dolphin being a dolphin means being embedded in a complex social network…even more so than with humans.’


The human brain weighs about 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). Bottlenose dolphin brains weigh about 1.7 kg (3.7 lb). Does that mean they're smarter than us?

Big brains don't always make for smart animals cow brains are bigger than those of most monkeys, but no one thinks cows are clever.

One approach that scientists use is to look at the brain size compared to the weight of the body:

In humans: the body is 50 times as heavy as our brain.

In dolphins the the body is 40 times as heavy as the brain, which is pretty close to humans

With fish the brain weighs less than the spinal cord.

But in mice it's 40:1 (about the same as a dolphin)

However just because a brain is big compared to body size does not mean it packs in the most neurons.

In humans the average number of neocortical neurons in the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain used for higher thought) is 19-23 billion. In bottlenose dolphins it's reportedly only 5.8 billon which is more than that of a gorilla, but only about half that of an African elephant.

Unlike the human brain (where we do the clever stuff with the prefrontal cortex) it may be that dolphin brains are wired differently to ours, and do their thinking using both the old and new cortex. The short answer is that we still don't know.

So what do dolphins use their big brains for?

Dolphins are highly social creatures and may use a lot of brain-power on socialisation . Dolphins may not use language like humans, but are still sophisticated communicators. Dolphins use a sort of sonar or echo location to and may use a fair amount of brain power for that. We are still learning how intelligent dolphins are.


How Smart Are Dolphins Really? A Ranking of Dolphins Against Other Animals

After humans, dolphins are often regarded as the second-most intelligent animal on the planet. They have a relatively high brain-to-body-size ratio, advanced language and comprehension skills, the capacity to show emotion, and are highly sociable. They've also shown excellent cognitive abilities—including individual differentiation and behavior control—and are one of the few creatures known to have passed the benchmark Mirror Self-Recognition Test.

Yes, the dolphin is a one highly sophisticated, razor-sharp creature. But, while they're undeniably smart, they aren't the only smart animals out there. So, how do dolphins stack up compared to the world's other animals?

First, a caveat: "You can't really rank animals by intelligence because they're all designed to do different things," says Justin Gregg, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the Dolphin Communication Project and the author of Are Dolphins Really Smart?. Gregg has deeply researched these deep sea creatures, and seen plenty of ways in which they excel cognitively—and some of the ways the lag behind. Still, he notes, "when we talk about an animal 'being smart,' it's usually when animals are doing things that look like what humans do."

But, while animal IQ tests aren't exactly reliable, we can take a look at the full spectrum of available research to come up with some rough comparisons. Here, you'll get a deep look at the intellectual prowess of 15 other creatures that also have high animal intelligence—defined as the combination of skills and abilities that allow animals to thrive in their respective environments—and see which creature really is the most clever of them all. Besides us, of course. And for a look at these amazing cetaceans in their natural environment, check out these 13 Gorgeous Photos of Dolphins in the Wild.

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Gregg points out that dolphins are actually distantly related to primates. "A lot of things they do are very primate-like," he says, "which is unexpected, given how different they are." But when it comes to behaving and responding to the world in human-like ways—one of the chief ways we can compare the intelligence of animals to one another—dolphins aren't on the same level as chimps.

One 2007 study found that chimpanzees share about 98 percent of the same DNA as humans. Observations and experiments indicate that chimps are capable of empathy, altruism, and self-awareness, which is where their intelligence is similar to dolphins.

But where they really excel is in cognitive function. Chimps have a profound memory—according to research published in Current Biology, their memory may be even greater than humans—and a relatively advanced knowledge of tools. They're known to use sticks to catch ants and termites, as a kind of rudimentary form of a fishing (or, rather, bug-catching) pole. And for more whip-smart creatures, check out the 25 Amazing Ways Animals Communicate That You Never Knew About.

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The sheer size of an elephant's brain suggests their intelligence must be pretty high. Like dolphins, they've been seen consoling and helping others, and there's even been a recorded instance of one passing the Mirror Test. But the elephant lags behind the dolphin in one crucial area: despite what a familiar saying might have you believe, the elephant forgets—or at least doesn't remember—quite as well as the dolphin.

Researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, have declared that dolphins have the longest-lasting memory in the animal kingdom. Reportedly, dolphins can remember whistles of other dolphins for up to 20 years. For comparison, a 2011 test of elephant intelligence and cooperative abilities found them merely "in league with chimpanzees and dolphins as being among the world's most cognitively advanced animals."

Still, elephants truly shine when it comes to perception. According to one 2013 study, they have the ability to decipher "ethnicity, gender, and age" in humans, all by listening to acoustic cues from voices.

So, why does this signify intelligence? Well, recognizing predators and judging their threat level is an essential skill for many wild animals. And since, over the millennia, different types of human subgroups have posed various threat levels—a male in his prime might signify higher danger, for instance—this is a highly advanced skill that's been honed and passed down over generations. And for more fascinating beasts, check out the 30 Toughest Animals You'd Never Want to Meet in a Dark Alley.

If you think dolphins are head-and-shoulders more intelligent than these adorable little trash monsters, we just have one question for you: Can a dolphin pick locks?

In a bizarre study conducted at Clark University, back in 1907, raccoons were able to pick complex locks in less than 10 attempts—even after the locks were rearranged or flipped upside-down. More recently, research has shown that raccoons have an impeccable memory, and are able to recall solutions to puzzles for up to three years.

And, in 2017, researchers at the University of Wyoming put raccoons up to the puzzle found in one of Aesop's Fables, "The Crow and the Pitcher," where a bird drops rocks into a deep pitcher, to raise the water level to a point where it's drinkable. Like most of Aesop's Fables, it's pure mythos nothing in scientific literature suggests crows have a robust understanding of water displacement.

The raccoons figured it out in no time.

The octopus has the largest brain of any invertebrate, and a whopping three-fifths of its neurons are located in its tentacles. As dolphins have no arms, this really gives octopuses a major leg up. "They're great at problem-solving tasks and object-manipulation tasks and infamously can escape out of places in impressive ways through problem solving," says Gregg. A quick venture down the YouTube rabbit hole will turn up videos of octopuses compressing their bulky bodies through a small slit holes, popping the lids off screw-top jars, and even climbing out of tanks to their freedom.

Oh, and then there's the German aquarium octopus, Otto, who was known to throw rocks at the glass and spray water at overhead lamps to short-circuit bright lights that were bothering him, to the amazement of the aquarium's staff. And for more fascinating creatures from the depths, meet these 20 Bizarre Sea Creatures That Look Like They're Not Real.

Dogs are man's best friend because they can relate to humans by understanding emotion and showing empathy. But are they as intelligent as dolphins? In some areas, no in others, yes. Dogs did not make the grade on the self-awareness Mirror Test—something dolphins have mastered—and dolphins appear to be better problem solvers.

However, dogs and dolphins can both use human pointing and eye-direction cues to locate objects in the distance. And one area where dogs outshine every other animal is in language skills. "The most famous case of an animal that learned the largest number of symbols—a thing standing in for another things or word—was dogs," says Gregg. Chaser, a Border Collie trained by psychologists "came out on top with knowing four or five times more symbols than dolphins or even gorillas." And for some truly adorable puppers, meet these 50 Dogs So Ugly They're Actually Cute.

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Squirrels have a phenomenal memory, and, like dolphins, they can even be deceptive. For starters, they thrive in big urban cities, giving them major street smarts over other animals. According to one Princeton University study, grey squirrels can remember where they've buried thousands of nuts, for months at a time, without relying on their sense of smell. And, in a 2010 study, squirrels who knew they were being watched dug fake caches for their nuts, then made a show of digging holes and patting them over with dirt, all while they were really hiding their nuts under their armpits or in their mouth with the ultimate goal of deceiving witnesses until they could find a better hiding spot. Still, while they're sneakier than dolphins, few researchers would argue they're smarter.

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"Dolphins have big brains, so we spent time studying them," says Gregg. "We ignored animals like pigs, because we eat them and turn them into bacon. But, these days, there's a lot more research that finds they do an awful lot of really complicated stuff not unlike what you see in primates."

Pigs are highly intelligent beings capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror, like dolphins. Plus, they're highly sensitive, are able to gain knowledge to help them solve problems later, and—at least in the case of mothers—are very protective, loving, and playful with their little ones. Several studies have shown pigs to be even smarter than dogs and cats, and they are able to solve problems quicker than many primates. Finally, they can also understand abstract representations and even apply the skill to play video games using a joystick. In other words: the time someone pummels you in Smash Bros., you can accurately call them a mean pig!

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"Parrots are surprisingly strong in their symbol manipulation," says Gregg. Like dolphins, they're capable of figuring out complex intellectual concepts that most humans can't master until kindergarten age. These birds solve puzzles and also understand the concept of cause and effect.

One parrot named Alex was given the same intelligence tests that were also given to dolphins and apes, and he scored as well in many areas—and even better in some. When shown various objects, he was able to named 50. He knew different colors, and could recall numbers up to eight. And he also understood the concepts of "different" and "same." More generally, African Grey parrots, the Einstein of this species, can learn an impressive number of human words and use them in context to communicate with humans.

The rat's psychology and emotional intelligence are similar to humans, and that's why they're often used for lab experiments. Similar to dolphins, rats also demonstrate altruistic behavior for example, they've been known to free other rats from cages during experiments.

They also possess metacognition, or awareness of one's own thinking, which is a mental ability seen only in humans and some primates. In fact, they've even performed better than some humans on specific cognitive-learning tasks: They can make calculations to help them obtain food from a trap without being caught, and they can process sensorial cues to analyze situations and make their way out of intricate mazes.

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It's hard to tell for sure whether dolphins or corvids—the bird family of crows and ravens—are smarter, since they exist in such drastically different environments. But one thing's for sure: these feathered fellas are certainly more cunning. "Crows are really good at manipulating and solving tool-based stuff they can create tools to solve problems," says Gregg. "They're one of the best tool-manufacturing species, and are better than dolphins at that."

According to reporting by the Sydney Morning Herald, they're expert problem-solvers and clever toolmakers. They also seem to understand that other birds have minds like theirs, and their decisions often take into account what others might know, want, or intend. They think watchers will know where they've hidden food and want to steal it later, so they'll take their food and sneakily hide it elsewhere, which is known as re-caching.

Ants "actually have good memories for landmarks," says Gregg. "But they can't learn symbol manipulation or things like that, and are certainly a lot less human-like or flexible in their thinking than dolphins."

That said, ants have the largest brain mass of all insects. Like dolphins, they're intelligent and methodical, but it's their intelligence as a combined group that deserves all the credit. When they work together, they know how to form colonies that operate with remarkable efficiency. (Think of it like the world's most sophisticated form of artificial intelligence, but with Mother Nature's distinct touch.)

Ants self-organize through scent. Because different ants with different "jobs" give off different smells, ants can figure out if there aren't enough ants on, say, food patrol, if they haven't smelled a food ant in a while. They'll then delegate responsibility and change jobs. They can even optimize the best and shortest path between the food and their nest.

Orangutans are one of the most intelligent of the primates, and some experts go so far to claim they're actually the smartest. Compared to dolphins, orangutans are sharp because they understand how to build objects—and why it's necessary.

For instance, one 2012 study showed orangutans demonstrated skillful engineering in building safe and comfortable beds. And, in a 2018 study, orangutans surprised researchers when they showed their mastery in creating fishhooks. The primates even utilized them better than human children in the same experiment!

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Bees are known for their sweet honey and their not-so-sweet sting, but they're also great problem-solvers. "Bumblebee problem-solving tool use is really fascinating," says Gregg. "There are [plenty of] experiments where bumblebees can be trained to pull on a string to get a food reward and learn from other bees that have acquired that skill."

Oh, and we can add two more abilities to their set of skills: addition and subtraction. Yeah, let's see a dolphin do that.

Sure, the ability to count or, at the very least, distinguish between various quantities isn't unusual in animals, but being able to solve equations using symbols is rare. It can only be done by chimpanzees, African grey parrots, and bees. One study showed bees successfully using colors in place of plus and minus symbols, and they got the answer right more than two-thirds of the time! And if you want to see how your arithmetic skills stack up, here are 30 Questions You'd Need to Ace to Pass 6th Grade Math.

Just like dolphins, goats have strong cognitive abilities, despite their unassuming demeanor. Thanks to their domestication and the fact that they've spent a lot of time around humans, goats "are very good at things that humans value—they can even follow the human pointing gesture," which even cats and dogs are unable to do, according to Gregg.

Researchers in Australia conducted an experiment to test their intelligence by setting up a contraption that held fruit at the end. To access the fruit, the goats had to use their teeth to drag a rope down, which then activated a lever they had to lift up with their mouths. Nine out of 12 goats mastered the task after four tries. When the researchers retested the same goats again ten months later, the majority still remembered how to work the system to get to the fruit.

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Many people are aware that pigeons were used during wars as messengers due to their ability to remember people and places for several years at a time. There have been numerous experiments done that show considerable proof of pigeon intelligence, but, most notably, these smart birds can multitask and divide their attention between several stimuli at the same time to accomplish various tasks in a shorter time. It's a remarkable show of intelligence that dolphins (and even some humans!) can't duplicate. And to learn even more about dolphins, don't miss these 17 Facts About Dolphins That Will Make You Love Them Even More.

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Dolphin Intelligence

The intelligence of dolphins is one of their most outstanding features. Among the thousands of members that the animal kingdom has, dolphins take one of the top places regarding intelligence.

The brain is the organ involved in the ability of understanding, reasoning, learning, and other cognitive processes. The dolphin’s brain is astonishingly complex, almost comparable to that of humans. And it is large related to their body. Through magnetic resonance imaging, their brains have been found to be 4-5 times bigger than those of other animals of similar sizes.

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the second place in a list of species with a higher encephalization ratio (EQ), which compares the mass of the encephalon against its body size.

In addition to a developed neocortex, the cerebellum has more convolutions (turns of the brain surface) than that of other mammals. The connections between the neurological areas and the motor areas of the organ exhibit a great sensitivity to pain and a pronounced tendency to stress.

Some scientists claim that the social intelligence of these cetaceans competes with that of the great apes.

Most of their behaviors show the development of their brain and their ability to understand situations. They process information from their environment in a similar way to people, and some say that they can solve problems like humans. For example:

– Their forms of communication are complex, evolving and diverse.

– They are creative and playful animals. Their behavior is not mechanical or rigid they seem to enjoy playing and look for the companionship of other individuals.

– Their empathy suggests that they experience emotions such as sadness or joy.

– They have an excellent learning ability this is why they are highly requested animals for water parks, although the activities of these places are highly controversial.

– They can transmit learning to other generations of dolphins.
There have been cases where they use tools. For example, sponges to protect your snout from rough surfaces.

– The members of a pod collaborate with each other and sometimes with other species of animals.

Some scientists argue that the social intelligence of these cetaceans competes with that of the great apes because they can demonstrate empathy towards the companions and help them when they are injured or immobilized.

Signs of higher intelligence are related to self-awareness and dolphins are. Proof of this is that when they look in a mirror, they can recognize themselves and know that they are the ones in the mirror This is a sign of the development of abstract thinking. Likewise, their learning ability is comparable to that of a 3-year-old child, according to cognitive psychologist Diana Reiss of the New York City University.

+ According to science, their ability to learn is comparable to that of a 3-year-old toddler.

INTELLIGENCE TESTS

Many other experiments on dolphins have proved their superior thinking ability compared with other animals and similar to that of humans:

– They respond positively to television, that is, show interest and curious attention to the moving images displayed on the device.

– They have been seen playing with inanimate objects that they find in their surroundings.

– They play with bubbles of water as they swim, and then take the time to observe their creations.

– They can solve complex problems and can imitate the actions of human beings. A dolphin named Tanner was blindfolded and told to imitate the actions of a trainer who was in the water. As the dolphin could not watch, emitted sounds and interpreted the sound waves to make replicas of the movements of the instructor.

The differences between human intelligence and that of dolphins are that the former need to manipulate their environment, but dolphins do not, and that is why they concentrate their intellect in other things.

There are still many questions regarding dolphin intelligence. There are still many things to discover, but what is known so far is enough to say that these animals are very, very intelligent.

ARE DOLPHINS SMART? THE ONGOING DEBATE ABOUT DOLPHIN INTELLIGENCE

Most scientists refuse to take a firm stand on the intelligence level of dolphins, and although many will admit that dolphins seem to be intelligent creatures, it is not a proven fact. The biggest problem researchers are running into seems to be the actual definition of intelligence and the way to test it in animals.

If you were to step out into the street and ask the first ten people you see whether or not they believed dolphins were creatures of intelligence, 8 of 10 would probably say yes. If you ask two scientists the same question, you just may be opening up a debate that could last for hours.

Darwin’s theory bases intelligence on the ability of a species to recognize what it needs to survive, while others believe that the size and architecture of the brain, the capacity to communicate or the ability to solve problems are the indicators.

Another reason why the research is limited is that it is complicated and expensive to do it in the wild. Dolphins in captivity may respond differently based on their surroundings and are therefore may not be representative of the wild dolphin.

While most of us outside the scientific realm recognize that dolphins are intelligent, we do not know the intricacies of the dolphin’s brain. It has two hemispheres just like the human brain. However, theirs split into four lobes instead of three. The fourth hosts all of the senses, whereas in humans, they are in different parts. Some believe that having all of the senses in one lobe allow dolphins to make quick and often complicated judgments that are well beyond the scope of human ability.

When studying the neocortex, which is the outside surface of the brain responsible for perceptions, memories, and thoughts, dolphins have more convolutions than the most intelligent humans. Even more, dolphins may be able to use the hemispheres of their brain separately as they have different blood supplies.

Some researchers think that the size and complexity of the brain at birth is a better measure of intelligence. If that statement holds up, however, once more the dolphin comes out on top. The bottlenose dolphin has a brain mass at birth that is 42.5% of the brain mass of an adult. In contrast, human babies at birth have 28% of their adult counterparts. At 18 months, the brain mass of a bottlenose dolphin is 80% of the adults, while humans don’t achieve this level until the age of three or four.

While the research certainly makes it look like the dolphin may be the closest to our level of intelligence, it may be quite some time before this can be confirmed.

Richard C Connor. Dolphin social intelligence: complex alliance relationships in bottlenose dolphins and a consideration of selective environments for extreme brain size evolution in mammals. 2007.

Pilleri G, Gihr M, Purves P.E, Zbinden K, Kraus C 1976 On the behaviour, bioacoustics and functional morphology of the Indus river dolphin (Platanista indi Blyth, 1859).

Stephen Leatherwood, Randall R. Reeves. The Bottlenose Dolphin. Elsevier, 2012.


Brain Ratios

What leads some to believe they are the second smartest creatures?

Simply put, it’s about relative brain size. Sperm whales may have the biggest brain sizes of any creature living on the planet, weighing up to 20 pounds according to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. But sperm whales are also massive animals that require more computing power for basic tasks like movement.

In one study in 2002, Marino and her colleagues examined the relative brain size of a dolphin compared to body mass — something known as the encephalization quotient. They compared dolphin encephalization quotients to those of other famously smart animals like chimpanzees, humans, gorillas and orangutans. They found that humans came in the highest, followed by several species of dolphins: Tuxuxi, white-sided, common, and bottlenose. The encephalization quotient of these dolphins weren’t that far off from Homo habilus , a close human ancestor, the study noted. It was much higher than sperm whales.

“Their brains are oversized,” Marino says. But she adds that researchers are now trying to get away from the idea of ranking different animals based on brain size. Octopi, for example, may not be as high in the encephalization quotient as some of their competitors, but the cephalopods have excelled at a great number of problem-solving tasks researchers have thrown at them.

Hans Thewissen, a professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University who has studied cetacean evolution , says that the ancestors of modern dolphins first began to evolve a large brain size in the ancestors of all whales and dolphins in the Eocene Epoch that ended about 33 million years ago. Another jump happened again in the early delphinids, the ancestors of modern dolphins, porpoises and belugas, about 27 million years ago.

Brain size alone doesn’t mark intelligence, though — and Thewissen says that he believes part of this jump in delphinids and other cetaceans likely occurred as their ancestors developed the capacity to use echolocation to hunt their prey.


How smart are dolphins actually

  1. They are observed engaging in complex hunting strategies with an awesome teamwork. Dolphins are very social and they signal each other a lot during hunting, making sure that every hunt is successful
  2. Dolphin calves stay with their mothers for a long time, up to 8 years. Young dolphins learn a lot in this time. Mothers can be seen cuddling and playing with their young
  3. Dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors. That shows that dolphins are self aware.
  4. They can learn tricks very quick. They can even invent new tricks or improvise with what they know to get rewards. Despite having no free limbs, dolphins are amazingly adept in using and making tools. They are seen shoveling the sea bed with sponges(aquatic organisms) to get to their hidden prey. In captivity they use variety of human-made tools from rings to balls
  5. Dolphins show empathy. They even mourn their dead
  6. Dolphins have friends. This sounds fairly normal, but developing a strong bond with a non related member of a pod/group is very rare even in other social animals.
  7. Other than humans, only dolphins are the animals known to have pleasure. They have a concept of pleasure and leisure which in itself is amazing. They are seen engaging in recreational sex, getting high on puffer fish venom, games with their prey, etc
  8. They probably give each other names. It is observed that some dolphins respond at a particular whistle given by another dolphin
  9. Dolphins have accents. Each pod of dolphins seem have to have their own unique songs and whistles
  10. They probably engage in gossips.
  11. Just like apes, dolphins mimic human actions. In 1985, a scientist studying dolphins was just playing around with a weed. He put the weed on his head like a crown and acted like Poseidon, the God of oceans. He then threw the weed out into the sea. Soon a dolphin came to the surface with the weed on its head. This was the first time mimicking aspect of dolphins was recorded.
  12. Dolphins can operate two hemispheres of their brain separately. This enables them to sleep with one eye open. Unlike humans their brain has only 3 lobes. It is thought that this enables them to process their senses quicker than humans as all the senses are sent to different parts instead of one.
  13. They can easily solve complex puzzles.

Given with all these accomplishments of dolphins, many countries have decided to categorize them as "non human animals" and have strict laws against hunting, commercially using and eating dolphins.


ELI5: What makes dolphins so great? Why are the often classified as the “smartest animals”?

I have no idea why dolphins are idolised. Below is a saved comment that I made that I too frequently share lol at least once a week I swear to satan I am copy pasting this response. As much as I hate them, this could be why ppl think they're smart, because they're capable of such premeditated evil

No no no! I'm sick of the pro dolphin propaganda, dolphins are fcking nightmare creatures from the depths of hell and you can't change my mind.

They will kill baby porpoises, not for food or territory or resources but for fun

They can stay awake for 5 days

The have prehensile penis' and usually procreate via gangrpe as well as rping many other species, alive or dead. They're the serial r*pists of the sea.

They're full on shark level predators. They'll hunt whole shoals of fish as a pack, herding them to the surface of the water so the fish get to choose between being eaten or suffocating

There's a video of a dolphin using a ripped apart fish corpse as a fleshlight.


ELI5: Dolphins, why are they so helpful and friendly towards humans?

So everyone probably heard stories of dolphins allegedly saving humans, and dolphins driving fish into fishing nets for humans.

But why the hell are they so helpful? Why are they doing this? We don't spend a lot of time in the sea, so I don't quite understand why dolphins developed this sense of helping and "working together" with us? Iɽ expect land animals to be more prone into working with humans because we are hunting them down to the brink of extinction but I don't understand why something like a dolphin would ever want to help us?

Is this just a developed evolutionary sense of 'survival of the fittest' whereas Dolphins pander to us just to win our affection and therefore be provided with protection and food? It seems interesting that because of these acts of "kindness" we care more about them than any other sea creatures like sharks for instance who are a lot more valuable to our eco system.


10. They Know How to Have a Good Time

While we might have a lot to learn about the intricacies of dolphin emotions, it seems pretty clear when they're having a good time as they leap through the air with utmost precision, or engage in artful displays of underwater acrobatics. Sure, humans and dolphins come from completely different worlds, but there's nothing quite as unifying as the shared joy of being alive.