One fine Sunday evening, I switched on the TV to enjoy a cup of coffee with some recreational evening show on the television. To my pleasant surprise, a documentary on the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi was airing. I was surprised to see Kelly (the dolphin) amazing the onlookers with her unique skills and gestures. This dolphin has developed quite a repo not only among the dolphin admirers of Mississippi but also all over the world for her outward intelligence.
Usually, if someone drops a piece of paper in the pool, the dolphins are trained to fetch it and give it to the trainers so that the pool remains clean. In return, they are rewarded with a tasty fish as a treat. However, when it comes to Kelly, she has devised a unique and cunningly cute plan of action to secure larger treats for her. Whenever she finds a large paper in the pool, instead of taking it to the trainer straight away, she keeps it hidden with her and when she feels, Kelly goes to the place of hiding, gets a small piece of that paper and serves herself with a fresh fish by exchanging that paper for it. This interesting approach is unexpected of a fish; however, the intelligence level on which dolphins operate surprise many skeptics.
Like Kelly, other dolphins are also considered to be among the most intelligent creatures on the planet Earth, second to humans of course. A medical reason to explain their intellectual prowess is their enormous brain size which is considered the largest among every living species. With 1600 grams of mass, the brains of Bottlenose dolphins are the largest even when compared to human brain which weighs about 1300 grams. Moreover, the brain-to-body-weight ratio of dolphins is even greater than the great apes.
These facts reflect the idea that nature has generously provided dolphins with big brains and an even bigger cognitive skill, though second to the human intellect. However, medical researchers claim that the intellectual prowess of dolphins is not limited to the large size of dolphins. Rather, dolphins owe their intellect to a specific part of their brain called “Neocortex”, which tackles tasks like problem-solving, self-awareness, etc. Dolphins have a very complex and intricate Neocortex which enables them to act more rationally than the other members of the animal kingdom.
Another interesting fact about dolphins is their ability to develop inter-communal and intra-communal emotional bonds and relationships. This trait is said to be associated with a well-developed Para-limbic system for processing emotions.
It is fascinating to see Kelly interact with her family and friends. There seems to be a unique pattern and rhythm in her voices and actions. Before analyzing human interaction and conversation with Dolphins, it would be an interesting approach to understand how Dolphins communicate with one another. Dolphins have the ability of producing two different sorts of sounds, “whistles and clicks,” both used by the specie on different occasions. Clicks are the sound produced by the Dolphins to sense their surroundings. Clicks enable the dolphins to gauge the surrounding through eco-location, commonly known to us as “Sonar.”
Their visual impressions through Sonar are so accurate and precise that they can judge an object’s location and physical traits even from a distance of a hundred feet. Moreover, their auditory senses are so sharp that dolphins can listen to the clicks being produced by other dolphins for eco-location. That gives them a sneaky edge over their mates and know what they are looking for. On the other hand, whistles allow Dolphins to communicate with one another directly.
However, researchers have not yet been able to confirm if there is a refined pattern of dolphin language that exists among the specie members and if humans can one day grasp the intricacies of the vocalization of Dolphins. But one thing is for sure; using clicks and whistles to communicate with the surroundings as well as with one another is an exciting and fun way to talk to your friends. Isn’t it??
Kelly’s interaction with her trainers is also a sight worth seeing. When it comes to communicating with the humans verbally, Dolphins are better in it than their other pals of the Animal Kingdom. It is a well-researched fact that dolphins communicate with one another; however, humans have neither been able to intercept that communication nor develop a vocalization pattern of their own with this fascinating and intellectually proficient creature.
Over the years, several attempts have been made by researchers to crack the dolphin code or even construct one for themselves. One of the very initial attempts made in this regard in the 1960s. US Navy devised an acoustic communication interface for the purpose of communicating with dolls. In order to match the dolphin whistle contour with the auditory texture of a human vowel, a computer system was employed that translated the combinations of human vowels to create sinusoidal dolphin whistles. As a result of this experiment, the dolphins learned to respond to more than thirty command strings.
Moreover, the dolphins also acquired the ability to copy and reproduce whistles on command. Another significant research for communicating with dolphins was the “Wild Dolphin Project”, conducted by Denise Herzing, a renowned behavioral biologist. After decades of research and study, Herzing and her colleagues understood that instead of the keyboard-based interface previously employed, they required an even more sophisticated system to establish human-dolphin communication.
Through tireless efforts of three decades, they finally created an advanced system called CHAT (Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry). Through this system, rather than pushing a keyboard into the water, the diver activates the sounds on a keypad system located on their forearm and then hears the translated version through speakers in the advance and intricate system. Despite the advancements, a complete understanding of the dolphin language and verbal communication with the specie is still an unrealized dream. But, one thing is for sure; if mankind ever wants to communicate with a member of the animal kingdom, dolphins are the best subject for that.
All these researches aptly explain Kelly’s intelligence and efficiency in terms of interacting with her fellow dolphins as well as her trainers. For instance, once a gull flew into her pond and she daringly captured it and delivered it to her trainer. As a reward, she was given a lot of fish to feed on. Contemplating on the value of the gull, she has begun luring in gulls by using her fish as baits. This cunning and fascinating behavior gives an exciting insight into the world of the dolphins and how they intelligently interact and communicate with their surroundings. Reading this article makes you want to get on a plane and visit Kelly the dolphin as soon as possible, doesn’t it??