Is it even a Florida Gulf Coast vacation if you don’t see a bottlenose dolphin? They are one of our favorite local aquatic residents! If you don’t see one spontaneously in the wild during your Indian Rocks Beach vacation, you always have the opportunity to visit the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) to watch them up close and observe their playful frolicking, amazing swimming abilities, and fun-loving interactions. Meeting Winter and Hope from A Dolphin Tale is also part or your CMA experience, so just ahead and put this on your Florida Gulf Coast vacation bucket list.
To get ready for your dolphin encounters, here are some amazing facts about dolphins and the behaviors that rank them high on the intelligence scale. We’ll let you be the judge of who’s smarter: humans or dolphins!
REASONS WHY DOLPHINS ARE SO SMART
DOLPHINS HAVE BIG BRAINS AND KNOW HOW TO USE THEM
Dolphins have big brains. Dolphins are incredible in so many ways, and when it comes to intelligence—let’s just say that they give humans a run for our money! A dolphin’s brain size compared to their body size is second only to humans. Measuring intelligence is tricky business no matter the species, but it can be defined as the ability to learn and apply knowledge; to understand new or challenging situations, and the ability to think abstractly. Dolphins demonstrate the ability to do all of these things. They are talented mimics and quick learners; they demonstrate self-awareness, problem-solving, empathy, innovation, teaching skills, grief, joy and playfulness. But wait, there’s more. So much more.
DOLPHINS HAVE A SUPERPOWER WIRED-IN TO THEIR BRAIN
Dolphins can “see” with sonar. This skill is called echolocation. A big difference between our brains and that of dolphins is that they have an entire area dedicated to echolocation. Sound travels much better in water than light does so it makes more sense for dolphins to sense their surroundings with sound. Their echolocation abilities are phenomenal; they can determine extraordinary details about everything around them. They use echolocation to hunt and navigate even in dark or murky water. Dolphins can check out each other’s pregnancies and eavesdrop on the echolocating clicks of other dolphins to figure out what they’re looking at.
DOLPHINS ARE REALLY DEEP THINKERS
Dolphin brains contain specialized brain cells called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognizing, remembering, reasoning, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. Not only that, but the part of their brain which processes emotions (limbic system) appears to be more complex than our own. A dolphin alone is not really a dolphin; being a dolphin means being embedded in a complex social network—even more so than with humans.
DOLPHINS ARE SUPER PLAYFUL
Play is an expression of intelligence. Pods of dolphins leap, tumble, back flip and spin together; and there is often no explicable reason for their behavior other than pure social enjoyment. When it comes to creating games, dolphins know few rivals. Many of them enjoy a game of catch, perhaps with a fish or even a turtle, throwing the animal back and forth to each other. Then there are activities that remind us of our games of tag. One dolphin will nudge another a few times to indicate its willingness for a game, then high-speed pursuit will take place through the sea, as they take turns chasing each other. In the wild, whale and dolphin play seems to be infectious, revealing an intelligent brain that needs, from time to time, to relax and let off a little steam. I think we can all relate.
DOLPHINS ARE INCREDIBLE COMMUNICATORS
Dolphin communication skills are at the very heart of their cooperative lifestyles and social interactions. Scientists agree that they communicate with each other in sophisticated, novel and interactive ways. When it comes to bottlenose dolphins, the complexity of their communication and social interactions is immense; they are incredibly chatty!
NAME THAT DOLPHIN
Experts have figured out that some dolphin species use distinct names for one another. They use identifiable, individual whistles sometimes known as signature whistles. Dolphins use their names to identify and call one another. Infant dolphins learn their names (individual whistles) from their mothers and keep them for life. Dolphins greet one another at sea by exchanging their names and seem to remember the names of other dolphins for decades. No other creature, besides humans, is believed to use given names for each other.
DOLPHINS ARE INNOVATIVE, CREATIVE & CAN USE TOOLS
Dolphins use exceptionally clever methods to find and catch their prey. These reveal great levels of cooperation, intelligence and social learning. In the shallow waters of Florida Bay, dolphins use their speed, which can exceed 20 miles an hour, to swim quick circles around schools of mullet fish, stirring up curtains of mud that force the fish to leap out of the water into the dolphins’ waiting mouths. In other areas of the world, they have also been observed using sea sponges in their mouths when diving down into seabeds to catch fish. The sponges protect the dolphins’ noses from scuffs, scrapes and stings as they forage for food.
DOLPHIN CURRICULUM FROM THE CMA
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium makes it so easy to teach kids about dolphins! Head on over to their Educational Resources page where they have ready-made lesson plans and activities sorted by age/grade level and by subject area that make learning about dolphins fun and engaging. The best part of all is you can use these lessons wherever you are! Make them part of an afternoon activity in your Indian Rocks Beach condo rental, at home before or after your Florida Gulf beach vacation, during your homeschool or virtual school studies—or anytime, really.
🐬 LEARN MORE ABOUT DOLPHINS WITH THE CMA LESSON PLANS AND ACTIVITIES HERE! 🐬
Article Source: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)
who do you think is smarter? dolphins or humans? why?
Let us know in the comments below!