The concept of the intelligence of mammals and especially dolphins has intrigued the human mind for decades now. We are familiar with how dolphins showed intelligence but upcoming research has revealed how little we really know about these fascinating creatures. They are more like us than we might have suspected.

In most cases, as with animals and birds,  nurture goes along with nature, such that each generation learns the vital skills necessary for survival – such as predatory ability, danger awareness, migratory routes and others – from their predecessor and or elders.  For animals such as insects, the skills for survival are hard wired into their generic composition, kicking in when they are needed. And in case of human beings, rather than just passing on generic skills, each individual is able to educate others based on their own experience. We are not alone in this type of individual learning as research and observation has revealed in the recent years.

So how smart are dolphins?

  • PLAY

Play is the greatest expression of intelligence and dolphins are among the most playful of mammals. As a matter of fact when it comes to creating games, dolphins are very inventive.  They enjoy a game of catch either with a turtle or a fish, throwing the animal back and forth to each other with nil intention of consuming it as food.


Dolphins have dozens of creative ways of feeding they have honed across generations and each new invention is rapidly passed onto their peers.  The Australian bottlenose dolphins for instance, have developed quite a range of tools which aid in feeding, for example, the dolphins grab a sea sponge, dives down to the bottom of the sea channels holding the sponges tightly in their beaks.  Then they poke them into the sandy sea bed, disturbing small fish in hiding.  The fish emerges, the sponge is dropped, the meal eaten and the process is repeated.


To humans the ultimate right is freedom. Unlike many animals that live longer in captivity than in the wild, dolphin’s life is shortened in captivity. Life expectancy is shorter through the species and infant mortality is higher.


Bottlenose dolphins are self aware because they can recognize themselves in the mirror.  Dolphins teach their offspring to perform specific tasks and pass knowledge between generations which are recognized as unique cultures. Others have complex ways of communication with each other and enjoy the benefits of living in social groups and they seem to love to play. And it is not only emotional or intellectual traits that prove how intelligent they are, their brain is also quite large. Their brain size compared to their body size is second only to humans.