Dolphins, with their playful demeanor and intelligent eyes, have always intrigued and charmed humans. Yet, there’s much more to these aquatic mammals than meets the eye, as they possess a wealth of surprising skills and behaviors that truly highlight their extraordinary cognitive abilities.
1. The Savvy Fish Trader: At an Marine Mammal Studies Institute, a shrewd dolphin was noted to have cleverly manipulated its rewards system. The institute encouraged dolphins to pick up trash from their pools, rewarding each clean-up effort with a fish. One observant dolphin took it a step further, hiding a piece of paper under a rock and tearing off small pieces to turn in one by one, thereby multiplying its fishy reward.
2. The Underwater Warriors: Unbeknownst to many, several naval forces worldwide employ “combat dolphins“. These highly trained creatures are entrusted with important tasks such as locating mines, spotting intruders, and tagging lost equipment. They can distinguish between materials like stainless steel, brass, or aluminum, even when buried deep in ocean floor mud. Interestingly, a facility near Seattle, home to the world’s largest concentration of nuclear weapons, is safeguarded by these remarkable dolphins.
3. The Tragic Love Story: In a striking experiment, a dolphin named Peter was taught English. He managed to learn a few words but became infatuated with his instructor, which led to the experiment’s abrupt termination. Sadly, Peter could not adapt to the post-experiment life and ultimately took his own life.
4. Dolphin Linguists: Dolphins exhibit a highly advanced spoken language, which is a testament to their remarkable intelligence and consciousness. Intriguingly, the dolphin brain is even larger and more complex than that of humans, adding another layer to their fascinating cognitive prowess.
5. The Compassionate Rescuers: Dolphins’ ability to sonically scan and identify human skeletal structures lends them an empathetic side. Their understanding of the perils of drowning has led to numerous accounts of dolphins helping shipwreck victims fend off sharks and stay afloat. On one occasion, a pod of dolphins encircled a group of swimmers, protecting them from a great white shark until it was safe for them to return to shore.
6. Dolphin Identity: Dolphins, in an intriguing semblance to human behavior, use unique whistles as identifiers, akin to our use of names. Dolphins respond only to their unique whistle, an audible version of their ‘name’, indicating their capacity for individual recognition and social complexity.
7. The Dolphins’ Gift to Fishermen: In Laguna, Brazil, an extraordinary symbiotic relationship has formed between bottlenose dolphins and local fishermen. For centuries, the dolphins have helped to herd fish towards the fishermen, signalling when to throw their nets with a flick of their tail. This unique collaboration dates back to at least 1847.
8. The Mustachioed Infants: An endearing fact about dolphins is that they are born with a temporary mustache, or rather a fringe of hair on their upper lip. This facial fuzz aids newborn dolphins in locating and nursing from their mother during their initial days. After about a week, a natural depilatory process takes place, and the mustache disappears.
9. Tool-Time Dolphins: Dolphins have proven their ability to use tools for their advantage. A striking example is seen in mother dolphins teaching their young to cover their snouts with sponges while foraging on the ocean floor, shielding them from venomous creatures.
10. Sound Imaging Masters: Last but not least, scientists speculate that dolphins can transmit ‘sound images’ via echolocation. By recreating the sound profile of an object, they may effectively be sharing mental images with one another – a testament to their highly sophisticated communication skills.