How Dolphins Read Symbols

Dolphins are smart. They’re second to humans where intelligence is concerned, scientists believe. Their brains are large and are comparable-at least functioning in the more primal aspects the same way human brains work- to that of humans. Scientists have observed in neurological studies the brains of dolphins and humans work in much the same way. In an experiment at the Roatan Institute for Marine Studies in Honduras, trainers are teaching dolphins to read symbols. They draw a picture of the activity on a large board, fast swimming, tail walking, jump,etc., and with patience and repetitive play times with them, the trainers have had some amazing results. 

They show off their work in a video: Candera, a seven month old baby dolphin with its mother, Pigeon.,standing by, are being given treats each time the symbol is correctly read. The video is short, but is long enough to show that the baby is fast becoming a show off. And why not, mama is standing close and what baby does not want to show off for their mother?

The first symbol shown to Candera are of waves close together. That symbol is for fast swimming. Baby shows off and is rewarded; After the second test, a high jump, baby gets board and distracted by something else and moves away. Mama retrieves Candara and the test for tail walking resumes. Baby performs as expected. In all Candera has learned to respond to twelve symbols, but the video only shows three, high jumping, fast swimming and tail walking.  

Dolphins have long been known for their intelligence and their playfulness with people and their importance to those who work with them. They even serve as an insignia for the US Navy. Where are they mostly found? These carnivorous mammals are found in all oceans, but mostly in the shallower areas where continental shelves put them closer to the surface. Not all live in oceans, four species of fresh water dolphins live in South American and  Asiatic rivers and estuaries. They are in a different family from the ocean dolphins,belonging to the cetacean group along with killer whales.  

The diet of whales are  smaller creatures such as fish, crustaceans, and squid. Therefore dolphins must be on the lookout for sharks, humans and orcas, who may possibly eat them. They are smart enough, however to know when danger is near, and they have the intelligence and the compassion to warn other dolphins when danger is near.  

What are their navigational skills and how do they work? They have special inherited sonar abilities that are a special feature of marine life. This alerts them to what kind of danger is lurking nearby, where to most likely find a gourmet meal, and how to find entertainment when they are bored. Those who live near appreciative audiences and human protected areas,  willingly perform their magic for the special rewards they get.

Oceanic dolphins are members of the Delphinidae family, and of these the bottlenose dolphins are the most well known group, and are generally thought to be the most intelligent of all dolphins. The genus, Tursiops, have two species, Tursiops truncatus – bottlenose – and Tursiops aduncus -the  Indio-Pacific bottlenose dolphin.

Dolphins are not loners roaming the oceans, but live in groups of fifteen or thirty or more, and these groups are called pods. Communal life is most common but they also work and hunt for food singularly. Possibly when they have located a hearty dinner they will alert others by their special clicking sounds – sonar signals – and will listen to hear answers. This is their means of communication. They use various mechanisms in the communications such as whistles, leaping, tail wagging and other actions and sounds.

Dolphins are smart and can read picture charts, are compassionate enough to care for their own groups, and are precocious enough to devise methods of learning what they need to know.  Intelligence, in a well integrated dolphin,  is about that of a three year old.