Dolphins smarter than humans???

I have heard that the dolphins brain is bigger than the average human brain in proportion to its size. It also said that if the dolphins were land animals they would have evolved to be smarter than humans and would have been the dominant species?? Is this true??

Oh my, yes! Just look at this:
http://www.theonion.com/onion3630/dolphins_evolve_thumbs.html

Damn you Stupendous Man!! That’s MY standard dolphin question link.

I refer you to this question from 9-15-2000

Whoops… Sometimes I don’t know my own speed…

OK, back to the OP. Yes, bottlenose dolphins have larger brains than humans. No, they do not have larger brains proportional to their size. But if you chart brain size vs body size, both humans and dolphins are way above the curve.

But even if dolphins were smarter than humans that would not make them “the dominant species”. Intelligence does not equal dominance.

Now, why do both primates and cetaceans have large brains? I think it is because both are very social creature, and larger brains make it easier to negotiate the social structure.

this is a really great board. You know why? It has an incredible ability to never answer a persons question. Someone comes with a decent question that a person with some kind of intelligence in the field comes to ask, and what he receives are a lot of jokes from the regulars (sometimes insulting, sometimes not) or firsthand experiences from people who are, for the most part, guessing as much as the person asking the question is. I’ve seen very few satisfactory answers here, at least to questions not easily answered (i.e. ones not relating to DVD’s and other technical mishmosh). Anyway, I’m about to perpetrate the sin of guessing here myself, from what limited knowledge I have. I’d like to think I know at least a little on the subject, or at least enough to actually help this person.

Anyway, brain size isn’t the most important thing in intelligence. The volume isn’t quite as important as the surface area. Thanks to the folds within our brain, our actual surface area is much much larger than brains of animals. I’m not sure as to the amount of surface area dolphins brains have, but it would probably be comparable to a chimpanzee or intelligent non human primate. So why didn’t it evolve? Well, (beware, more possibly misguided opinion) a dolphin is, in a lot of ways, the pinnacle of aquatic mammal evolution. I’m not going to trace the innumerable steps that led humans to develop their brains and thoughts to eventually lead up to homo sapiens, but for the most part, tool development, harnessing of fire, and language are all pretty much denied to dolphins (they do communicate through clicks and noises underwater, but is that really a language? I’d like to know the definition of a language, what would help) Even if they had an opposable thumb like that article, it wouldn’t help much. The first tools were bones and sticks, the shapes of which fit well into the hands of early man. What the heck is a dolphin going to use for a tool? Or use a tool for? I might be overestimating the use of tools as a engine for development, and instead perhaps language and the beginnings of social adherence were the initial spawns of intelligence. I don’t know. Time for a trip to the library, or for SOMEONE ELSE TO RESPOND. Call me a moron, see if I care. Just correct me. This whole webpage seems to be devoted to the act of looking smart rather than the pursuit of knowledge.

by the way, Cecil, you treated that inuit person a little harsh.

DANGIT in all the time I was writing my manifesto someone else was writing something to make it null and void!!! arrrggghhh!!!

thanks lemur!!!
Actually, I mean that. I still like being proven wrong.

Hey thornz, did you read that thread I linked to? I didn’t put it there just for the joke, it also answers * the same questions asked in the OP*!

Your “manifesto” was not irrelevant. Primates have more brain surface area than whales (including dolphins and purpoises). Altho the link was a joke, opposable thumbs was instrumental for developing a brain with more neurons. Primates are the only creatures to have opposable thumbs. I mean what good is it to lift a can of beer if you can’t figure out how to open it?

As far as this board not being a good source of knowledge, I think you are wrong. I have learned a lot from this board. There are some very knowledgable people in many specialities here. You name it: physics, math, philosophy, poetry, medicine, biology, chemistry, etc. You have the occasional jester who likes to be cute (including me at times), but I think an occasional joke or pun is good for the soul. Especially puns.

I also, however, do not like guesses. I’ve had some to my questions and initially thought the person was giving me the correct answer due to his superior knowledge, only to discover (thanks to subsequent posters who do have more knowledge) that that was not the right answer. I’ve been accused of making guesses, but I never post an answer unless I know or think I’m right. If I’m merely making an educated guess, I will say so. Sometimes when I think I’m right, I have been proven to be wrong. No one is perfect.

Can anyone offer a hint as to how surface area, or complexity of convolutions, of a brain is related to intelligence, however one defines it? Or is that argument basically mammalocentric, confusing correlation with causality?

Are you sure about that? Pandas have thumblike structures which, although not true digits, seem to serve approximately the same purpose. Raccoons have almost humanlike manipulative ability, although I’m not sure if they accomplish this with what we call thumbs. Many birds, such as parrots, have opposable digits on their hind legs, which can grasp and hold objects. And, of course, if you really want to stretch the definition of “thumb”, elephants have either one or two opposable structures on the end of their trunks, which they use to pick up small objects.

Probably because more surface area = more neutrons and more synapses.

The panda’s “opposable thumb” is actually an extension of a wrist bone, the sesamoid.

Some birds can grab things, but don’t have thumbs. Of course, if you are going to stretch the definition of a thumb, other animals do have them. However, they are not as versatile as ours. For example, they can’t hitch a ride.

Another reason this is a great board is that it is tolerant of people griping about it not being the Answermatic 2000
and then posting a rambling ('tho interesting) WAG in response to the question. It’s not quite irony but it’s something close.

I believe that, after years of testing, most of the researchers believe that dolphins are probably about as smart as wolves - a relatively intelligent social animal, but not truly self-aware. A lot of that brain is needed for processing sonar data. They don’t show any signs of being intelligent, and they really have no reason to have evolved greater intelligence than what they have.

If dolphins were as intelligent as humans and had a language, they wouldn’t get caught in nets. People brought up on Flipper, who cling to the idea they are as smart as us, will always say ‘The nets are invisible to their sonar’ in their defense. It’s not a very good one. Consider this analogy - in prehistoric times, when all humans were hunter gatherers, wandering around in small groups living off the land, someone creates invisible force fields that trap animals that blunder into them. A hunting party of these humans comes across one, and somebody gets stuck. He’s not going to die immediately - we’ll give him 10 minutes, which is actually quite a bit less than how long it takes a trapped dolphin to drown. You can bet this human’s going to be yelling the equivelant of ‘Oh shit, I’m stuck in some invisible trap!’ His buddies will probably try to get him loose, and maybe some more will get trapped. Those who don’t get stuck have just learned of a new danger. They may bring others to see where Ook and Guk got stuck and died. At some point they are going to notice that there are other animals stuck in this same general area, just as dolphins should notice that there are a bunch of fish hanging in the middle of the water instead of swimming around - this may even be what lured them close to it. Since they are intelligent and have language, they will tell everybody else about it, what signs indicate there may be an invisible trap (stuck wildlife), they will either avoid them or (more likely, at least in the humans case) take advantage of these traps. Even if they don’t communicate with other tribes of humans, if these traps are fairly common everybody will know about them eventually. Occasionally someone will blunder into one, but the number of humans caught in these traps is going to go down fast after the initial deaths.

Dolphins apparantly lack the brains to think ‘school of motionless fish in open water=danger’ and the ability to communicate such a basic concept to other dolphins.

BTW, I recently got the 3rd Edition Monster Manual for Dungeons and Dragons, and I was happy to see they finally caught up with the times and have given dolphins an Intelligence score of 2 (typical animal intelligence) as opposed to the 12 in previous editions (10 was the human norm).

I would guess that the quality of the brain matter plays more of a part than the surface area. More cerebral cortex mass lends more intelligence than more medulla oblongata mass.

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that evolution has a direction (i.e., that some species are more evolved than others). This is a misconception. A dolphin’s brain is just as evolved as a human’s brain. A modern human is just as evolved as a modern bacterium. There is no pinnacle. Once conditions change (e.g., environmental changes, food supply changes, new competitions from new species), then what is “fittest” changes.

I would say yes, it’s a language. I’ll let you check a dictionary, but I’d say it’s simply a standard form of communication. One dolphin understands another (at least of the same pod) (or species?) so they are “communicating”. I’ll assume they don’t reinvent & decipher clicks & whistles with every new message, so the standard set would constitute a language, IMHO.

Human selected/created tools to fit our anatomy. That doesn’t mean that a human hand is required to use a tool.

As for what, I’ll let the dolphins figure that one out. But as to what for…how about digging up fish hidden in the sand (something dolphins use their nose for now)? Or cracking open crustacean shells? Or fighting off sharks? Just open speculation here…

That could be an interesting debate for another thread about human evolution.

Then I think you’re reading it wrong. This is not an academic website, so people are here to have fun as well as to learn. IMHO, most people are very good natured here.

Just FYI, there is a different forum for this.
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?forumid=1

Well, the fishermen only bring up those that got trapped, not the ones that stayed away. Also, the nets are not just an invisible wall, but a moving, entraping/surrounding wall that appears in different locations at different times. For these and other reasons, I think your analogy falls short.

I don’t think dolphins are as smart as humans, but I do believe them to be in the upper range of animal intelligence.

I was going to make some joke about how dolphins must be smarter than humans because they don’t have any lawyers in their midst… but thornz seems to have put the ‘ki-bosh’ on that line of response.

On brain folds, I will mention that on a recent trip to Seaworld I distinctly remember them mentioning that dolphins’ and baluga whales’ brains have more convolutions than others in the animal kingdom and are close to humans in relative brain surface area.
Badtz wrote:

Two questions:

  1. How do you know wolves, dolphins, or even earthworms are not self-aware?
  2. What’s the connection between self-awareness and intelligence? Is it not possible to be more intelligent than a human and not be self-aware?

If you’re going to make an argument that intelligent creatures are more effective at avoiding problems, I think it only fair to point out that using the human as your benchmark will be your undoing. Humans are probably the worst example because a human will continue to exhibit dangerous behavior, even when we are fully cognizant of the danger.

The fact that a handful of dolphins are caught off-guard by fishing nets is hardly a demonstration of their intelligence or lack thereof…

I know what you mean and understand where you’re coming from, believe me. Hoever, I think you’re a little bit off here, I’ll try to explain why.

The reason the regulars tend to dismiss questions with jokes is usually that it’s been done before or even done to death. There are some questions that seem to come back every time there are a few new users. Regulars really hate it when people come in here and start asking questions without checking the search option to see if the answer has already been posted.

Now, this is maybe not the most tired topic I’ve seen, but there is another thread (already linked to) that even has the same answer! :slight_smile:

I think regulars could easily be more humouring, but then newbies (and lots of regulars too for that matter) could also easily be more thoughtful and scholarly.
It’s a communication thing.

— G. Hrafn