Scientists have long known the dolphin to be an intelligent species, based on anecdotal evidence as well as scientific research. Certain factors that include brain size and the complexity of the dolphin’s brain physiology have played a key role in trying to ascertain the dolphin’s intelligence, but new discoveries have been made that imply the dolphin is more intelligent than we’ve ever thought.
Recent studies of the dolphin genome have shown that the animal shares many genes in common with humans, although it has been 95 million years since we shared a common ancestor. Their intelligence has been likened to that of chimpanzees, because they both have displayed a capacity for learning and emotion. Further testing using MRI scans has revealed that the dolphin differs from the chimp in one crucial way: the dolphin’s neocortex is particularly expanded, which is precisely where cognitive thinking, reasoning, and emotional understanding originate.
In addition to behavioral clues like social interaction and recognizing members of their pod, dolphins have been most recently proven to recognize themselves in a mirror. This is an indicator of a higher level of intelligence than previously believed, due to the fact that in studies using mirrors, the dolphins not only recognized themselves, but appeared to be enjoying checking themselves out and hamming it up — much like a human youngster (or even adult!) would. Check out this cool footage of the dolphin’s intelligence on display:
Image via DocklandsTony