Today there was an interesting question from a guest. It was about the intelligence of marine mammals.
To make comparisons, scientists use parameters that they can consult. In this case, the size of the brain is used in relation to the size of the body to determine intelligence. While humans have seven times the brain size of other comparable mammals in relation to their body size, dolphins have five times the brain size. Humans and dolphins are not that far apart.
Dolphins have brain folds in the neocortex. This part of the cerebral cortex controls complicated thought processes and self-awareness. Intelligent action requires comprehension, thought processes and the ability to remember. Dolphins find solutions to challenging tasks. In Australia, dolphins preying on coral reefs have taken advantage of a device that protects them from the sharp edges of the coral. They use a sponge to protect their beak. Incidentally, this knowledge is passed on to the next generation by the females in the group.
Dolphins are also capable of planning. A very good example are Orcas, which have sophisticated hunting strategies. They become skilled team partners who coordinate with each other and take on different tasks in order to hunt down the prey. This requires spontaneous action appropriate to the situation. Fast problem-solving is required. Humpback whales form complex hunting communities to encircle and engulf fish using their bubble technique, a veil of air bubbles formed by multiple whales.
Both humans and dolphins are able to recognize themselves in the mirror at around one year of age.
Communication also requires certain intelligence. Dolphins have their own name, whistle. Conspecifics are recognized even years later based on their individual name whistle. The songs of the humpback whales consist of thematic complexes, stanzas and sub-stanzas that vary. These songs are adapted and, after adaptation, are used by the other male populations of humpback whales.
The studies of intelligence are of course linked to human understanding, which is also limited. Now, intelligence is not only a question of cognitive ability, but a living being also has social and emotional intelligence. This, I would say, is particularly pronounced in marine mammals. They are able to feel sadness and be compassionate. They support each other as a group in difficult situations, but they also extend their supportive behavior to other species in the ocean. There are many examples of this advanced social/emphatic behavior.
Today we had a wonderful tour in the morning. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) visited us in the bow wave of the Ribeira Brava. Short-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) moved calmly through the sea. We had a peaceful, intense encounter with these wonderful animals.
By Fatima Kutzschbach
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Pilot whales
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Pilot whales, Atlantic spotted dolphins
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins