Dolphins Dumb? Scientist is Dumber

Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The article about dolphins being stupid has spread suspiciously around the global media this weekend. Seems like the Japanese public relations firms were working overtime on this one.

Apparently, some scientist out to make a name for himself from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa has proclaimed that dolphins are dumb. In fact, this academic Yoda has even gone as far to say that lab rats and goldfish are smarter than dolphins.

Manger's primary observable evidence is that dolphins don't jump out of nets or over screens in their pools.

According to neuroethologist, Paul Manger, the large brain of a dolphin and whale is used more as an internal head warmer than for thinking. Yeah right!!!!!

I guess all the world's great cetologists just have no idea what they are talking about. At least according to Manger, who claims to know a thing or two about brains, but apparently knows very little about dolphins.

The problem with this study is that it is a simplistic and there is a complete lack of inclusion of decades of observable behaviour in dolphins and whales that contradicts everything that Manger is saying.
I have spent decades observing, swimming with, and studying dolphins and whales, and to suggest that these animals are not intelligent is absurd. Manger should get out of his academic fantasy land and go to sea - he might learn something.

Anyone who knows anything about dolphins and whales knows that the conclusion of this "study" is wrong. Manger has a theory and it is a half-baked theory at that.

I would be interested in seeing where the research money for this latest dolphin defamation piece originated from? Japan maybe?

According to Manger, "We equate our big brain with intelligence. Over the years, we have looked at these kinds of things and said the dolphins must be intelligent," The real flaw in this logic is that it suggests all brains are built the same ... When you look at the structure of the dolphin brain you see it is not built for complex information processing," he told Reuters in an interview.

Dolphins are widely regarded as one of the smartest mammals and this common knowledge is not challenged by Manger, whose peer-reviewed research on the subject has been published in Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, "but the reality is different."

Brains, he says, are made of neurons and glia. The latter create the environment for the neurons to work properly and producing heat is one of glia's functions.

"Dolphins have a super-abundance of glia and very few neurons ... The dolphin's brain is not made for information processing - it is designed to counter the thermal challenges of being a mammal in water," Manger said.

Manger said observed behavior supports his iconoclastic take on dolphins as dimwits.

If this is true then the only dolphins that Manger has been observing must have had lobotomies.

"You put an animal in a box, even a lab rat or gerbil, and the first thing it wants to do is climb out of it. If you don't put a lid on top of the bowl a goldfish it will eventually jump out to enlarge the environment it is living in," he said.

"But a dolphin will never do that. In the marine parks the dividers to keep the dolphins apart are only a foot or two above the water between the different pools," he said.

Why not? Because, Manger says, the thought would simply not cross their unsophisticated minds.

The reason that dolphins do not jump out of a pool is that there is nowhere to jump to. If there is a panel placed across the pool, the dolphin has no way of knowing what is above the water on the other side. Dolphins will not jump into an area unless they know what is on the other side. A fish will. Manger turns this around to suggest that fish are smarter than dolphins.

If a goldfish jumps out of its bowl it dies - that is NOT intelligent behaviour. A dolphin knows this.

As for jumping out of a tuna net, the dolphin has the same problem. The dolphin cannot see beyond the net. Would a human being jump over a wall not knowing what is on the other side? Certainly not an intelligent human being.

The other factor is that dolphins will not abandon their young and their pod by jumping out of the net. Dolphins have demonstrated extreme concern for the welfare of their own in times of danger.

Manger's theory that big brains keep cetaceans warm is ridiculous. Walrus, manatees, leopard seals, stellar sea lions, and polar bears are big mammals that spend time in cold waters yet they have not developed such a large sophisticated brain.

One sign that dolphins and whales are smarter than people is that they are not busy destroying the planet they live on like one so called "intelligent" primate that we all know.

Permission by the author to be freely distributed and published.

For more information on this subject: Perceptions of Intelligence by Captain Paul Watson at: