Dolphins and intelligence

I always hear about the intelligence of dolphins and would like to know the straight dope on this. Are they about as intelligent as a chimp or an ape?

Allow me to be the first to point you to This link. Check it out!

Don’t know.

Comparing/contrasting intelligences among different species is difficult. (For that matter, comparing intelligences among individuals of the SAME species is difficult! There are a lot of problems with trying to quantify a person’s IQs.) The brains of different species evolved to suit different needs and behaviors. For example, a dolphin’s intelligence is suited to life in the water whereas a chimp’s is suited to life in the forest. Who can say which is better? And how does one evaluate it without introducing a bias as to what humans consider to be intelligent?

Overall, it seems like you can make some gross comparisons (like a mammal to a reptile), but fine-tuning distinctions may be out of reach. IMHO, dolphins/chimps/apes are of about the same intelligence…they all seem to have good language capabilities & have complex societal behaviors.

I’m pretty sure Cecil addressed this…try searching his archives for comparisons of intelligence between cats & dogs.

too funny! :slight_smile:

Something I wouldn’t mind having answered by any marine biologist here.
On a visit to the Baltimore Aquarium, I asked one of the workers (who apparently had some Life Science degree from M.I.T.) whether the dolphin “signature sounds” - unique patterns that each dolphin has - were names.
Specifically, I wondered if a dolphin had been ever observed to respond to its own signature, say, by swimming over to that location. Or whether dolphins had ever been trained to associate a behaviour with a command, then naturally differentiated who the command was for by having it associated with the signature. Or even, had any dolphin been ever recorded using another dolphin’s signature, possibly to get its attention.
The only thing he could tell me was that dolphin groups weren’t that large, so the names probably wouldn’t be necessary, but that kind of speculation wasn’t satisfying.
Does anyone on the SDMB know if experiments along the lines I listed above have been performed by those lucky researchers fortunate enough to work with one of the planet’s most intelligent species?

I seem to remember hearing that dolphins have more “advanced” brains than humans, although I don’t have any kind of cite for it. I would have no trouble believing it, and I can’t wait for the day science pronounces that dolphins are more intelligent than humans. Of course, that day will probably never come, because everyone hates the idea that their own species is not at the top of the heap.

Dolphins are the second most intelligent species on earth surpassed only by mice. Of course the mice are doing behavioral studies on us the find the “Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, of which the answer is 42. But every good hitchhiker knows that.

They’re also intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonaise. :wink:

I know the psych department at UH has a marine facility that works with dolphins. I’ll see if I can dig anything up.

Hey, I’ve got a great lead for you. Dr. Laela Sayigh at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington). She was a colleague of mine in the marine biology program there. Her specialty is in marine mammal communication.

From the UNCW website:

Laela Sayigh, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 1992.

teaches Animal Biology - Biology 206 and Marine Mammology

(I’ve deleted her phone # and email; however, you can find them on the website, or e-mail me and I’ll give them to you)

She’s a great lady and would love to discuss marine mammals with anyone who is interested.

You may be interested in an old thread: Brain size and intelligence

Do you still talk to her? Drop her a line and invite her to the boards. We always welcome any smart people with open arms, but life science folks in particular are something I’d like to see more of around GQ.

I’ll give her a ring on Monday. I haven’t talked with her in a few years; my career has taken me away from marine biological research. But she does owe me a favor for that class session I covered for her! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the interesting replies and links. It’s just that every time I see a show about dolphins, the narrator will go on and on about the intelligence of dolphins, and I wanted to know how they compared to humans and chimps. This is kinda dopey, but I was thinking if mankind was to crack the dolphins language, and it turned out they possessed near-human intelligence, if there would then have to be some kind of laws put forth to not only protect this animal, but to also start including it in the planetary decision making process…you know, like maybe making a dolphin a representative to the U.N. or something. I think Planet of the Apes got me thinking about this.

A link for you:

Contains obnoxious frames, but it does provide links to article abstracts.

Dr. Laela Sayigh e-mailed me back:

Anyone interested can e-mail me, and I will provide Dr. Laela’s office phone or e-mail. Of course this information is also available on the UNCW website: --there are a couple of links to Dr. Sayigh’s information and research.

So, anyone interested in dolphin communication, including signature whistles and social structure, can ask her directly! Or you can get the sites for her research and head on over to a University library to read up.

This blurb mentions that only chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans pass the mirror self-awareness test. Dolphins are mentioned as having been tested–and failing.

I think this is an example of a piss-poor comparison, tossing dolphins into this. Put a big bottlenose dolphin in front of a mirror and it will see an image of itself, all right. But its primary sense, its highly developed sonar, will not reveal an image of itself. I’d like to see what happens when one holds a blank piece of paper up to a human while playing a recording of it speaking. My guess is that the human wouldn’t pass that self-awareness test in a way acceptable to a dolphin.

Might as well call 'em non-intelligent because they don’t build fires, either.

Not sure, but…
I thought that dogs (at least some) had mirror self-awareness too.

Maybe only chimps, orangutans, and humans passed (failed?) the vanity test. :smiley:

Ah, those people with lives! Curses! Thanks for trying anyway, divemaster. Always looking to grow the pool of good contributors.