How Dolphins Read Symbols

Dolphins are now thought to be more intelligent than chimpanzees. Their brain size in comparison with their body, and the fact that their brain cortex potentially affords them vast cognitive abilities, makes dolphins highly unusual in the animal kingdom, and brings them closer in intelligence to humans than ever thought possible.

Former studies have shown that chimpanzees often have a similar intelligence level to three year old human beings, but more recent studies suggest that dolphins exceed chimps when it comes to being bright. Just as chimps can be taught to read symbols, dolphins can too, and to a greater extent.

Trainers working at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, have discovered that dolphins can read two dimensional signs, and many other studies have also concluded that it’s possible for humans to teach dolphins their language. Louis Herman, at the Dolphin Institute in Hawaii, used symbols and gestures to help dolphins learn hundreds of words.

One of Hermans most amazing discoveries about dolphin intelligence is that they can even understand syntax. His studies revealed that they know the difference between a question and a statement, and recognize that words can mean different things depending on where they are placed in a sentence.

Behavioral biologist, Diane Herzing studied dolphins in the Bahamas. She taught them to communicate with humans via symbols, props and sounds. With submerged keyboards, humans demonstrated how to press certain keys in order to be given particular props, such as balls and scarves. The dolphins then mimicked them, and were soon able to give and receive props using the same method of communication.

Herzing soon realized that the spotted dolphins she had taught how to communicate using keys, were inviting other species of dolphins to play the communication game they had learned. This isn’t unusual, as dolphins can be very sociable creatures, and have been know to teach each other things they’ve learned from humans before.

This makes the future possibilities of human/dolphin communication even more exciting. If many dolphins are taught to speak with us via symbols, and choose to teach many more dolphins, this could bring forth a whole new outlook for the growth of useful interaction and involvement between people and dolphins.

The realization that dolphins are so intelligent makes these graceful creatures even more endearing. The fact that people may soon be able to have a conversation with them on a wider scale is quite incredible. It would seem that humans and dolphins may be able to forge more meaningful relationships thanks to dolphin communication studies.