Dolphins dumb, news report claims
Alon Levy reports on a new study about dolphin neuroanatomy.
South African biologist Paul Manger recently published a paper arguing that dolphins' large brains and high brain-to-body-size ratio evolved to insulate the brain in cold water. [Sun Times]
Manger found that dolphin brains have a lot of fatty, insulating white matter (glial cells) and proportionately less information-signally grey matter (neurons).
Chicago Sun Times reporter Tenille Bonoguore infers that the whole dolphin/intelligence thing is a big urban myth:
"Dolphins and whales are dumber than goldfish and don't have the know-how to match a rat, new research from South Africa shows."If dolphins were an alien species that we'd never observed, this study might give us a reason to downgrade our provisionally estimates of dolphin intelligence. In fact, we have ample evidence that dolphins are intelligent because, well, they behave intelligently.
For example, dolphins maintain complex and dynamic social relations in the wild. They can be taught to perform complex tasks (like mine sweeping, shown above). Dolphins may even display mirror self-recognition--a capacity that was previously documented only in humans and other higher primates.
At a meeting of the Society For Philosophy and Psychology in Edmonton, I went to a talk given by a dolphin researcher from York University who worked on mirror self-recognition. She described how some of her dolphins not only recognized themselves in mirrors in experimental settings, but were also videotaped using the mirrors in spontaneous play. One dolphin devised a game that involved propelling a ring backwards underwater while staring at the mirror and watching the reflection to see where to catch the ring again.