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Dolphin Intelligence


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Everyone knows dolphins are smart, but how smart? I think thier intelligence could almost rival humans. The more we learn about them the more we realise how smart they are. They are highly social, communicate and have been known to have names for each other, have a sence of humour (they have been found to pluck feathers of birds tails, pull fish by the tail), solve puzzels and reconize their reflection. Sure they don't have tools, but they don't have hands to build them.

 

If dolphins are able to solve often complex puzzels then they are capable of complex thought. They are probably able to think on a certain level and have curiosity.

 

So what are your thoughts?

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If you look at the brain ratio on the chart on this link you see that it tells us that dolphins have the largest brain under man and that chimps are under them. I believe that we don't fully comprehend their intelligence and that although humans are definitely smarter than them they may yet hold some surprises as to the degree of their intelligence.

 

Check for typo's man you've got a lot.

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If only it were legal to own a dolphin, I'd do my own limited pet science. =)

 

African grey parrots have been taught to associate phonetic sounds with letter symbols on paper, which is the first step toward reading. I'd like to see if dolphins are capable of such a feat, except instead of using letters on paper, it would probably be necessary to use 3-dimensional objects that dolphins can use their sonar on to "read." If they're smarter than parrots, they should pick it up faster.

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I have seen schools of wild dolphins close at hand while cruising in the boat. They love to surf down the wake, then will veer off, swim like hell to catch up, and do it again.

 

My husband used to water ski and had one catch the handle of the ski rope after he had fallen off. It apparently just wanted to play - he had a tug of war with it before it gave it back.

 

I don't know whether they are smart or stupid because of it, but they do seem to seek interaction with people.

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Play is by no means an indication of intelligence. Many predators "play" games when young as a means of learning vital skills.

 

I am no expert on animal communications, but don't many herd animals have some form of language (if only "moo" = danger danger run like the wind). And most cetaceans, like whales have language almost as complicated as dolphins (is this right?).

 

And I seem to recall hearing that dogs were smarter because despite their smaller brain size their brains are more structured- more convoluted.

 

I know this is sort of a nick-pick but exactly how do you define intelligence. Some of these activities could simply be attributed to the dolphin's normal activities. Like I said, playfulness whilst is a sign of intelligence by human's standards could simply be a nifty way of learning vital life skills.

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Dolphin brains are also more convoluted (greater numbers of gyri & sulci relative to the human cortex), but I believe much of that is devoted to the significant demands of their echo location system, which is also more complex than had previously been thought.

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Did you read about the dolphins that were trained to detect mines? My company built the "pinger housings" that trained them. They removed the live charges from the mines and inserted a device that gave off a certain signal. The dolphins were trained to locate the device by the signal and then to identify it by echo location and sight. Later, the signaling devices were removed, and a field of mines was placed in specific locations without the devices. When the dolphin located the mine, he surfaced and indicated the location with flipper and particular noises.

 

One dolphin came up and gave the signal, but no mine had been placed in that location, so the dolphin was not given a reward and told to go back and try again. It returned several times, and its signals became more and more emphatic. Finally a diver was sent to investigate - it had found a mine left over from WW2.

 

The point is, that it knew it had found what it was looking for, and it was not going to give up, whether it got a fish or not. I think that indicates a pretty high degree of intelligence.

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I believe they are many creatures that exhibit a certain degree of intelligence.Killer whales,monkeys,dogs my pet ferret.However its niave to think that their comprehension is on par with ours.I often wonder wether our longing to talk to another intelligence,and the inevitable acceptance that SETI is never going to find anything has turned our attention to creatures on our own planet.We falsly see what we believe to be human traits and emotion as rover nudges our hand and gives its paw,or waits for us at the window.We could swear that it knows our feet are aching because it brought our slippers.Unfortunatley its only wishfull thinking...the dr doolittle in us.In reality a dolphin is a fish(ok a mammal).It swims in the ocean with other dolphins,shows some emotive traits in that it cares and touches other members of its pod.Well for three years my back garden has been the winter quarters of two doves,they spend the entire time preening and kissing.One is more extrovert than the other and even if im in the garden,it flys down grabs some nuts and takes them to its partner.When all i leave out is bread they sit on the fence and stare at me through the window in what seems disgust.Now are we to believe that this shows anything .

If lets say dolphin intelligence is on a similar level of ours,they must be just as curious about us,they would find away of making real contact.Maybe select the wise from their group and all congragate in a harbour,clicking and waving away to attract our attention.In reality however they jump through a few hoops for a fishy reward.Seals clap and when we shout shark they roll over and play dead.Its all training.

Yes they are reported cases of dolphins nudging human swimmers in difficulty to the shore,and yes dolphins can find devices that emit sounds,but thats they are exhibiting instinctive reactions

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well, dolphins are considered one of the most intelligent creatures other than humans.

 

they can communicate with each other and complete puzzles, but in comparison to human intelligence - are dolphins even worth comparing ourselves to?

 

i mean, human children do puzzles, they enjoy it and dolphins can do a similar thing too.

 

but can dolphins calculate formulae, create vacinations and have a real society in the same way that humans can?

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lol....hey is it true that scorpions will rarely use there sting on you...but will frequently nip...

No, that's a generalisation (as are most stories about scorpions).

 

The ones I have are venom-conservative, but other species will hit as often and for as long as they can.

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well' date=' dolphins are considered one of the most intelligent creatures other than humans.

 

they can communicate with each other and complete puzzles, but in comparison to human intelligence - are dolphins even worth comparing ourselves to?

 

i mean, human children do puzzles, they enjoy it and dolphins can do a similar thing too.

 

but can dolphins calculate formulae, create vacinations and have a real society in the same way that humans can?[/quote']

It seems to me that you are trivialising their intelligence just because there's something better.

 

Humans are a special case (in the sense that there's nothing we know of like us). Seeing as dolphins are significantly more intelligent that almost all of the millions of other species, we can't just write off their "achievements" as not being good enough.

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but can dolphins calculate formulae, create vacinations and have a real society in the same way that humans can?

Most humans can't calculate formula or create vaccinations either. I don't know what you mean by "real" societies, but dolphins do have social groups with their own varied cultures. Many human societies are arguably as rudimentary as dolphin pods in terms of technological progress.

 

It can probably be argued that dolphins do not build the many things we build simply because they don't desire what we desire. Living in an ocean obviously has vastly different requirements. I think it would be premature to judge a dolphin's intelligence just because we don't see the immediate results of it. More research into their intelligence is called for.

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African grey parrots have been taught to associate phonetic sounds with letter symbols on paper, which is the first step toward reading. I'd like to see if dolphins are capable of such a feat, except instead of using letters on paper, it would probably be necessary to use 3-dimensional objects that dolphins can use their sonar on to "read." If they're smarter than parrots, they should pick it up faster.
A group in the states having been doing something akin to this with wild dolphins. They are trying to create an environment with 'interesting things' to play and interact with, including language symbols. Cynics might feel this is just evidence of intelligence on the part of the animal behaviourists who have secured extended field time 'working' in the waters and on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Source: I saw it on a documentary a year ago. [i hate it when people say that, but it really is all I have.]

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Actually humans are the third most intellegent life on this planet. Dolphins are the second and mice are the first. Dolphins found a way off the planet just it was destroyed by the Vogons, something humans couldn't do. Mice actually had the earth, really a giant supercomputer, built to determine the question to the answer of the universe (42)

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The only reason humans are smarter than dolphins is because of our culture and tools. We have hands and an environment where tools can be easily made and used. Plus in order to eat meat we needed to use tools to hunt. Dolphins don't need them. They are perfect hunters, do not have hands, and an underwater environment doesn't have as many tool uses.

 

One huge leap in human evolution and our intelligence is our cultural evolution to building civillizations. This made our social lives much more complex and making us as a species more intelligent. This could be achieved by farming. Dolphins don't need this. They are free in the open waters with an easily available food source.

 

So as a species human are more intelligent but what about as individuals? There are no methods for todays science to truly test how smart dolphins are, but what if you hooked up a human and a dolphin to a matrix like virtual reality world with puzzels and mental challenges and see what happens. That would be really interesting.

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You know, the problem here is that we are comparing apples and oranges. A human uses its intelligence to solve human problems, dolphins and other animals use their intelligence to solve their particular sets of problems.

 

Yes, the lack of hands limit their ability to use tools - the lack of tools limit their ability to construct objects. I think it is arrogant of us to try to teach them to understand our language. I think we'd get a lot farther if we attempted to learn theirs.

 

Doubtless they regard us as dangerous bumbling idiots that set off depth charges and other underwater explosions that deafen them and destroy their echolocation abilities.

 

And I am not a "PETA" person either - I just believe you can learn more by listening and observation than by talking.

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  • 2 months later...

There is one major problem with this entire debate:

 

Intelligence is not quantifiable.

 

The other problem is that most of you are rather uninformed on the subject.

 

Since marine mammalogy is something of a passion for me, let me nitpick a little.

 

Support for the fact that dolphins are sentient (i.e. self-aware):

 

1) They have a spoken language.

 

This is something that is still under intensive research, but the work of some scientists (namely Alexandra Morton in British Columbia with wild orcas) after recording the calls of wild orcas for 25 years has recorded a complexity of grammar, tone, and syntax comparable with human language. (I am taking the liberty of using the Delphinidae species I know the most about, Orcinus orca.) Also, after recording and analyzing the calls of captive orcas (Orky and Corky in MarineLand in San Diego during the 1980's), she found vast differences between the complexity of their "grammar" versus the "grammar" of the wild orca pods they probably came from, based on data about the time and location of their capture off the Canadian coast.

 

2) They understand & utilize the concept of names.

 

This was shown conclusively in a study done by John C. Lilly in 1965 (Yes, he was a druggie and threw his academic career down the toilet in the end, but some of his early work with captive dolphins is definitely worth a read.) Basically, he took a young woman named Margaret Howe and had her live on a raised platform in a tank she shared with a bottle-nosed dolphin named Peter. After several weeks in the tank, Peter learned to approximate a nasal version of Margaret's name. There've also been studies done where dolphins are shown responding to specific sequences of "name" whistles. It's fairly certain dolphins understand the concept of a name.

 

3) They have differing dialects.

 

Acoustics studies among wild orca pods show that pods from different areas and lifestyles (transient vs. resident) have drastically differently sounding calls. The best explanation for this is that orcas, like humans seperated by distance and circumstance, develop their own languages over time.

 

So, why won't dolphins ever speak English? One problem is that they don't have vocal chords. They make sounds by passing air through five air sacs in their throats. Another thing I have to ask is, why does the fact of dolphins being intelligent automatically mean that they would want to communicate with humans? I'm not sure that they would, to be honest. There's plenty of friendly dolphins, sure, but mostly dolphins are interested in eating fish and having sex with other dolphins. If you compare the ratio of wild dolphins that actively swim up to a beach to swim with people and the number of wild dolphins that just go about their daily business eating fish and having sex, you'll see the majority is definitely with the latter. Dolphins are aquatic creatures whose worlds are primarily painted out for them by sound, while we are terrestial creatures who live in a world of sight. Of course our motivations are going to be different.

 

Just my two cents. Or maybe fifty, considering the length of the post.

 

And one last thing. Has anyone brought up the idea that scientists might feel a tad threatened and lost a little objectivity when threatened by the possiblity of a creature whose intelligence rivals their own?

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Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the subject with the rest of us.

 

What do you think about "trained dolphins". I was on Hawks Key some years ago and saw some dolphins that had been trained to entertain humans - there was some research done with them and autistic children I believe.

 

But - do you think they "enjoy" the interaction, or do they feel imprisoned?

 

With all of our computer simulations, can we not make recordings of their language, interpret it, and build a computer that can "speak" to them in their own tongue?

 

It would seem a much simpler prospect in the end than trying to make them communicate with us in our language. A really great computer program ought to be able to "learn" the nuances of their language and incorporate them so it can communicate more effectively. Speaking anthropomorphically, if the cetacea are as smart as they seem to be, you'd think they'd appreciate it.

 

Did you ever read a novel called "Soundings" by Hank Searle?

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Interesting... Did you get that from a book? Which one?

 

It was a thought that crossed my mind before, but the only published viewpoint of it I've ever read is in Listening to Whales by Alexandra Morton.

 

What do you think about "trained dolphins".

 

Have you ever read accounts by trainers on dolphin behaviour? Dolphins will learn new routines easily, and perform well, until they get bored. Then they demand newer, more complex behaviours, or make up stuff on their own. If you go to an oceanarium and watch a dolphin show several times in a row, you will see that captive trained dolphins never perform a routine by rote and will become difficult if they get bored with it.

 

But - do you think they "enjoy" the interaction, or do they feel imprisoned?

 

To be honest, I'm not a dolphin, so I don't know. I would think likely a mixture of both, though I have my own suspicions about the mental state of captive cetaceans... Esp. considering the comparisons of captive orcas' stunted vocabularies versus that of their wild counterparts, I can't help but wonder if being kept in captivity warps their mental state. There's some basis for this provided for in documentation of cetacean aggression towards trainers and each other in captivity, as well as cases of self abuse.

 

With all of our computer simulations, can we not make recordings of their language, interpret it, and build a computer that can "speak" to them in their own tongue?

 

John Lilly attempted this with his JANUS project in the early 1980's. In theory, yes, it's possible - if we had a proven mathematical theorem for the dynamics of language. I don't think we've got technology that advanced yet, however.

 

Did you ever read a novel called "Soundings" by Hank Searle?

 

No, I have not.

 

Please keep in mind I'm just a junior AP Bio student in high school. I've never listened to captive OR wild dolphins via a hydrophone, I've just read extensively on the subject and have formed my opinions similarly on the line with those of Mrs. Morton, because they make the most sense to me.

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Please keep in mind I'm just a junior AP Bio student in high school. I've never listened to captive OR wild dolphins via a hydrophone' date=' I've just read extensively on the subject and have formed my opinions similarly on the line with those of Mrs. Morton, because they make the most sense to me.[/quote']

 

I'm impressed - where do you plan to go to college? (Oh yeah - and get Soundings and read it - just for the fun of it. It's written in "1st person whale".)

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