A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

What Do Dolphins ‘See’ with Their Ears?


When you and I hear something, the information from our ears goes to the auditory circuits in our brain. But imagine having an additional auditory circuit, so you have one that goes from your ears to your auditory cortex and another that goes to a different part of your brain altogether and is very close to the visual cortex. That’s what whales and dolphins have.

So, what does that mean? What is it that cetaceans hear-or-see-or-whatever-it-is that we humans can’t even begin to imagine?

This was one of the topics at this year’s Superpod conference on San Juan Island off the coast of Seattle. The presentation was given by Dr. Lori Marino, who co-authored the study.

dolphin-brain-081116  human-brain-081116
Notice how much more convoluted (more folds, therefore more surface area) the dolphin brain (left) is than the human brain. It could possibly be the most complex brain on Earth.

Rather than me trying to explain it, just follow along in this video as she shows the main differences between human brains and dolphin brains, and then gets to the part where she shows what they discovered in this latest study.

(Incidentally, as Dr. Marino explains, no dolphins are harmed in a study like this. The brains that are analyzed in the MRI scanner come from dolphins who had stranded on the beach and didn’t survive.)

In a separate presentation, Dr. Marino also talked about The Whale Sanctuary Project, of which she’s the Founder and President. The Whale Sanctuary Project, of which I’m a part, is working to create the first sanctuary for cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins and whales), where they can live permanently in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat.

Each of the talks, over three days, was videoed, and if you’d like to see more, you can browse through them here.