Intelligent And Playful Marine Mammals
Dolphins are very clever marine cetaceans, comprising the suborder Odontoceti. The largest taxonomic family is that of Delphinidae. There are nearly 40 distinct species of dolphin existent in the world today, spread between 17 genera. They are all carnivorous predators, made distinct from sharks with which they share the status of apex predator in their habitat by their intelligence and other mammalian features. Physiologically, dolphins are very similar to whales, except that they are usually much smaller and have markedly different habits such as schooling and other dolphin-specific behaviors.
Perhaps The Most Intelligent Creatures In The Ocean
Many scientists and behavioral researchers consider the dolphin to be the most intelligent aquatic creatures and some go as far as to claim that they are the second most intelligent animal of any kind, after human beings. This is made evident by their receptiveness to training, social behaviors, and means of communication. While it is evident that dolphins are highly intelligent, actually measuring this intelligence is very difficult due to biological differences between humans and marine mammals. Designing applicable tests for intelligence is a very demanding task that researchers are currently developing solutions to.
Communication Between Dolphins
While dolphins generally have excellent eyesight, their hearing is also very sharp and many species communicate through vocal clicks and whistles. Bottlenose dolphins have been observed to develop specific signature tunes that identify individuals, functioning as a parallel to naming in humans. Dolphins even call for one another using the signature whistle developed by the target dolphin and can remember individual’s signatures for very long time spans – over decades. The extent to which this communication is used to describe information is currently undergoing intense study by marine biologists and linguists alike.
Many dolphins like to jump and play with one another or other creatures, even human beings. While some of these activities form part of a social function, there are certain behaviors that they seem to engage in purely for the sake of entertainment. The idea of entertainment places dolphins on a unique level in terms of their cognitive abilities, because only humans are known to engage in playful behavior without direct function or purpose. Dogs and cats, for example, only play in mock combat that sharpens their skills, while dolphins blow bubble rings and make other games for which the only observable purpose seems to be fun.