Saturday, August 2, 2008

How smart are dolphins and whales?

OK :)

Whale intelligence is one of those tricky subjects. I can point you too data but you must make up your own mind.

Dolphins save people from sharks, killer whales are smart enough to know that if they attack humans -> humans will wipe them out. Blue whales can communicate from the south to north poles.... well used to be able to, now theres too much interferance! Humpback whales have their own evolving music industry. A whale song can send several gig worth of data in a few seconds. Humans have 3 parts to their brain and whales have 4. Whales can see inside other whales. Whales share the evolved brain cells that humans have... only they evolved seperately. Dolphins can recognise themselves in a mirror, surf, play, blow bubble rings, call each other by name and have sex for fun. lol what more evidence do you need really?


Anyway lets get some links in here for you to chase up!

Yea OK so its just a google search on spindle cells. But the fact that whales have them makes them VERY special, because so do HUMANS!!


"Good point, Shalom Freedman, and I am delighted you found the article entertaining and informative. Still, you haven't said why whales developed such large brains; why their cerebral cortex is so highly convoluted, and why they have roughly 7 times as many glia as the human neocortex. There are no lose ends in Gina Girl's conclusions, but your conclusion, right or wrong, has its ragged edges. Another reader expressed his opinion on this in a private email to me:"

With reference to your article on cetacean minds at: (very nicely done, by the way), you ask:

"We're now wondering, essentially, what goes on in a whale's head -- and why, if it's supposedly so smart, it doesn't have great works to show for it."

Well, yes, we wonder this all the time-- but I may posit that one answer is in the question. Einstein didn't build any bridges, so what does he have to show for /his/ life? Our hands are beautiful, and useful, but they are not the only way to build things...

Elsewhere you hint at what is more likely, I think: "...they think not more weakly but just much differently?".

I think at least part of the answer may lie in signal processing. For example, there is a very curious sound made by the Minke (known rather colorfully in the literature as a 'boing', see Rankin, Barlow et alia), that, when looked at in wavelet space, is very intriguing.
There is an MP4 version up here.

What is seen in this animation is a continuous wavelet transform of this sound in polar coordinates. Slowed down about 10 times, if I recall, otherwise it would be just a blur. Background information is here.

Another example, from a whale not commonly thought of as all that intelligent (the Blue whale, (Balaenoptera musculus/ ), can be seen here.

That image took 240 gigabytes and 21 hours of processing time to reveal...

Anyway, my point is simply that, of course, they don't have hands, and so can not build things. But they can make sounds, and with sound as important as it is in there lives, it may be that they focused on what could be done with the resources they had at their disposal.
R. Douglas Fields
Jan 16, 2008 9:37 PM"


whale speak in picture form


"The brain of a sperm whale is about 60% larger in absolute mass than that of an elephant. Furthermore, the brains of toothed whales and dolphins are significantly larger than those of any nonhuman primates and are second only to human brains when measured with respect to body size [1]. How and why did such large brains evolve in these modern cetaceans? One current view of the evolution of dolphin brains is that their large size was primarily a response to social forces—the requirements for effective functioning within a complex society characterized by communication and collaboration as well as competition among group members [2–4]. In such a society, individuals can benefit from the recognition of others and knowledge of their relationships and from flexibility in adapting to or implementing new behaviors as social or ecological context shifts. Other views focus on the cognitive demands associated with the use of echolocation [5–7]"

Some more on the Humpback live music industry

Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of the Humpback whale is it's song. Only males sing! So it is assumed they use their songs to attract females and discourage other males. These songs last upwards of 30 minutes and are composed of 2 to 10 main components - always repeated in the same order. The song changes slowly over many months but the songs remain recognizable to the one sung last year. Over a period of five years, or so, the songs are completely different.

In any given breeding ground, there's an almost infinite variety of timbre, volume and frequencies to be heard. All of the males in the area sing the same song. Small variations sometimes occur which are picked up by the other males allowing the songs to evolve over many years into new tunes.

If you watch a male singer, you'll see him surface for air, then dive under the surface to a depth of 15 metres or so. There with head pointed slightly downwards he begins his song.

Why do they sing? No one has yet deciphered the exact message, but it seems likely that songs attract mates. In the breeding grounds one often sees a female, a calf and an 'escort'. Many scientists believe that the 'escort' is the male singer who accompanies the female waiting for her to come into heat after the recent birth of the calf. If one theory is correct, the etherial songs are mostly designed to sooth and woo the female and only secondarily to warn off other males. Other observations seem to suggest that the songs are a method of establishing a "dominance hierarchy in the breeding grounds."


All of this is hidden from your eyes. To understand the whale and all other sea creatures you must listen to their sounds. In the sea, you might say that senses are reversed. On land, sight is the most important. You can see much further than you can hear. In the sea the opposite is true - you can hear much further than you can see. So whales, dolphins, fish and other creatures that inhabit the depths have developed very sophisticated sound transmission and receiving organs. That's why marine biologists make use of hydrophones to study and record underwater sounds.

It has been said, but is still unproven, that humpback whales can communicate from 'equator to pole'. Not their songs necessarily, but other sounds - grunts, bellows, moans - some sounds that we can hear and some that are below the range of human hearing but which carry great distances - thousands of miles - in deep underwater sound channels. If they do, who are they communicating with? Can a whale in a northern hemisphere breeding ground signal its distant cousin in Antarctica? These are questions that are still to be answered.

One thing that is more likely, is that humpback whales are probably the source of the many legends and myths about sea monsters. Early sailors would have encountered the the eerie songs of the Humpback whale and heard them through the hulls of their ships. The Humpback whale's voice is very strong - much greater than that of the Gray whale. If you happened to be swimming near a singing whale your whole body would vibrate - an encounter that would be guaranteed to feed a myth for centuries!


takasito said...

Anonymous said...

whale's intelligence. I often see this argument. I wouldn't forbid whaling just because of their intelligence. new research shows a pig can be smarter than other pets and are horribly affected when they are taken away from their mothers as babies. I saw this in a documentary Brilliant Beasts.

but don't birds sing too? I'm not that amazed if whales can sing. we already know they communicate. except among mammals not many can sing. african wild dogs do a chirping sound.

Michelle Anne Custodio said...

It doesn't matter if they are or they're not. Let's do what we need to do and protect them. They need it.

whale watching oban