Dolphin Superpowers

Dolphins have developed some incredible abilities that continue to amaze researchers.
The dolphin’s brain is bigger than human brain. A human brain weighs about 1300 grams. A dolphin brains weigh about 1800 grams. Their brain to body mass (known as EQ or encephalization quotient) is the second highest in the natural world. Humans come in at 7.4, dolphins (depending on species) 4-5. The dolphin brain has two hemispheres, split into four lobes instead of three. The fourth lobe hosts all of the senses which may allow them to make immediate and complicated judgements. The brain cortex has the same complicated folds that we do – in fact even more so. Dolphins and their huge brains existed millions of years before the first appearance of humans. Dolphins use echolocation. They locate objects using sonar, thought to be as good as bats. Dolphins communicate using a complicated combination of clicks and vocalizations. They clearly use language to communicate with each other – hunting in elaborate groups where everything is beautifully executed. Dolphins like to play. They enjoy a game of catch, throwing a turtle or fish back and forth with no intention of eating it. They also play games that look like the human version of tag, taking turns chasing each other through the water. Some dolphins use tools - shells and sponges, to forage for food. This behaviour is passed on from generation to generation. Dolphins are self-aware and they recognize themselves in mirrors. Dolphins live in social groups, each with distinct cultures that are passed on from generation to generation. Dolphins live in small groups, but can form super groups that have over 1000 members. Dolphins are capable of mimicry – they imitate behaviours demonstrated by humans or other dolphins. They can even mimic behaviours from a screen showing that they have highly advanced visual processing. Dolphins hearing is remarkably acute. Their inner ears have been modified so that they hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans. Dolphins can see equally well both in and out of the water. Although they can’t see colour well, they see well in darkness and in dim light.

To learn more about dolphins, watch Conversations with Dolphins on The Nature of Things.

Available on CBC Gem

Conversations with Dolphins

Nature of Things