How Smart are Dolphins?

Are Dolphins Smart Enough to be Non-Human Persons?

How smart are dolphins?  Zoologist Lori Marino, psychology professor Diana Reiss, and ethics professor Thomas White think they are smart enough to be considered “non-human persons who qualify for moral standing as individuals.”  There is certainly a lot of evidence to support that claim.

Richard C. Connor points out that the complexity of dolphin relationships is second only to that of humans’; Jonathan Ball posits that “in certain areas of the brain concerned with “emotional control, objectivity, reality orientation, humor, logically consistent abstract thought and higher creativity” dolphins have an higher ratio of neural density [than humans]“; Cambridge Student Online assures us that dolphins can use tools and are thus cultural beings; it has been shown that dolphins have a sense of the future; and the US military thinks they are smart enough “to seek out underwater mines, attach explosives and eavesdropping devices on enemy ships and help divers recover lost weapons from the ocean floor.”

That is not to say that dolphin intelligence has not been called into question.  Geoff Weir, the Conservation Director at the Australian Dolphin Research Centre, for example thinks that much of a dolphin’s brain is used to process sound while Dr. Paul Manger feels that dolphins have large brains because they need to keep warm in cold water, not because they are terribly bright.

Given the stakes, it is understandable that there should be debate on the subject.  For, if dolphins were to be recognized as non-human persons would it still be permissible to use them as pets in amusement parks or to employ them for our own ends in our wars?

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29 Responses to “How Smart are Dolphins?”
  1. kamlesh786 Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    really smart.

  2. Brenda Nelson Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    We need to treat all our animals better, beleive it or not NONE of them were put here simply to serve humans.

  3. magicdarts Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    They can certainly teach some humans a thing or two about how to behave – fascinating read thanks!

  4. rjyuggy Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    for me, dolphins are clever and cute but not smart.

  5. Goodselfme Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    This is a lovely and interesting write. I like Dolphins

  6. clay hurtubise Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Interesting piece.

  7. Joie Schmidt Says...

    On January 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Very interesting *:)



    -Liane Schmidt.

  8. Bo Jack Russo Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 12:33 am

    They’re smarter than me, I know that!

  9. lovenluck Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 2:26 am

    interesting information, enjoyed reading it

  10. AlmaG Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 3:35 am

    They are very smart :)

  11. papaleng Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Great article. I believe all animals have such intelligence that we humans have not yet out to harness.

  12. albert1jemi Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 5:30 am

    great share

  13. thuanynguyen Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 7:38 am

    very interesting info. thanks!

  14. Sudheer Birodkar Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Always knew dolphins are smart, Your article gave me further insight into this.Thanks for sharing

  15. qasimdharamsy Says...

    On January 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Great article…good work….

  16. Gijo George Says...

    On January 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

    The fact that Dolphins like to interact with humans shows that their talents could be used for wide variety of purposes like training them to become life savers.

  17. LOVELYHONEY Says...

    On January 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm



  18. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On January 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Dolphins are so graceful and marvelous. one of the most unique and beautiful.

  19. virtualredheart Says...

    On January 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    very good info… i’m not sure if dolphins are smart or not because i never seen it before but i believe that it is a cute fish… :P

  20. Jane Jane Says...

    On January 8, 2010 at 9:22 am

    interesting. Dolphins are so cute.

  21. xoxo Says...

    On January 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Good article Inna. I always love dolphins.

  22. bluray Says...

    On January 11, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Interesting post….. ,

  23. Steve Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    If humans only use 10-20% of their brain power, then why not dolphins or whales?

    Maybe they can do things we can only dream of, whatever that is.

  24. Butterfly Dreaming Says...

    On March 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Dolphins are beautiful, intelligent animals.

  25. Diego Rentsch Says...

    On August 28, 2010 at 12:31 am


    You actually think a dolphin is a fish!!!!????? It is a mammal and breathes air like you! (I thought they taught this at schools)

  26. erniedick Says...

    On April 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    i lie the rat cleaning

  27. elaps Says...

    On April 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Everyone is saying things like “great article, very interesting!”, but really, this article is rather generic and average at best. A 7th grader could compile as much information from a half hour on the web, and their article would probably be just as well written.

  28. Matt Thompson Says...

    On September 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    So how would Paul Manger explain the Corvids, which have a brain about the same size as a walnut, and no neocortex, and have been proven to show incredible intelligence and tool use?

  29. Carl Says...

    On January 23, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Wory about going to work paying bills for stuff paying taxes aut the kazoo
    Or swim play and eat fish etc
    With no worries just life and fun
    Tell me who is smarter

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