A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Amazing Abilities of Dolphins

What do we really know about dolphins?

Dolphins and Us

Part One: The Smartest of Us All?

“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!”
The famous message they left us in the sci-fi movie.

Amazing Abilities of Dolphins
What one scientist learned about them. It’s amazing.

Dolphins or Humans: Who’s Smarter?
Here are some of the facts. You decide.

Dolphin Society and Culture
How they live, learn, play and use their amazing echolocation.

They’re Super-Brainy, Too
Neuroscientist shows us a dolphin brain.

More Fascinating Stuff

The Great Researcher
Prof. Lou Herman taught us most of what we know. (Check out the videos.)

A Society that Works
Dolphin society is more successful than ours.

Are Dolphins “Persons”
Author Tom White explains what a “person” is.

Life and Culture
Their lives, games and gatherings.

How Smart is a Dolphin?
The processing power of their brains is huge.

Experimenting on Dolphins
Should we still be doing it? “Please don’t ask me,” says scientist who does it.

My Visit to the Dolphins
“A beautiful creature with liquid eyes was gazing up at me as we motored along.”

Other Links & Videos

Mirror Self-Recognition Test
How we know that dolphins are self-aware.

David Attenborough on Surfing

Spinner Dolphins with Humans

A Dolphin “Stampede”

And Another One!

And Riding the Bow Wave

Playing with Bubble Rings

Dancing in Tahiti

The Herman Investigation
The results that ended his research.

The Minds of Whales
A scientific paper about the brains of cetaceans.

Next: Part 2: The Business of Dolphins

In the tongue-in-cheek Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we learn that while humans thought of themselves as the most intelligent species on the planet, they actually ranked third, a little behind dolphins. (We never learn who was at the top of the list!)

In real life, we don’t know exactly where dolphins rank. Much of what we do know about dolphin intelligence, consciousness and self-awareness was learned by a scientist called Lou Herman, who studied a group of captive dolphins at his laboratory in Hawaii. Professor Herman discovered that they’re very smart indeed. Some of what he learned is captured in a  fascinating BBC TV show with David Attenborough, which showcases Herman’s work.

Herman devised all kinds of tests that demonstrate their understanding of human language. (They learn what we’re saying to them and to each other a lot better than we can begin to understand what they’re saying to each other!) You’ll see that the kind of “tricks” that trainers get dolphins to do — things like synchronized swimming — are often based on things that dolphins just naturally do in the wild. Catching fish, for example, can entail everyone being able to follow each other in split-second timing. And that’s how entire cultures and lifestyles are developed that are then handed down and improved upon from generation to generation. The amazing abilities of dolphins are critical to how they survive and thrive in the wild millions of years after their ancestors – land mammals – returned to the ocean.

Lou Herman’s discoveries were remarkable. But like so many other people on a quest, he didn’t know when to stop. His dolphins became sick and stressed, but he refused to send them to the veterinarian … in case it slowed his work with them. It was a tragic case of hubris. The dolphins died and his work ended up being shut down.

Read more about Lou Herman and watch the amazing video with David Attenborough here

Next: Dolphins and Humans — Who’s Smarter?