Great Minds: Are Dolphins The Smartest Animal?

are dolphins the smartest animal

It’s no secret that dolphins are some of the smartest animals in our oceans. They are top predators and use a variety of tactics to effectively hunt their prey.

They are incredibly quick learners and are incredibly talented mimics, which is largely the reason why they are used for entertainment in captivity.

Dolphins are quick learners that exhibit self-awareness, problem-solving, empathy, joy, grief, playfulness, and much more.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at just how intelligent dolphins really are, and answer the question many of our readers ask. Are dolphins the smartest animal?

It’s difficult to rank the smartest animals in the animal kingdom as they are all different and unique in their own rights. However, it’s widely accepted that dolphins are up there with the smartest, certainly in the top three alongside chimpanzees and elephants.

What Is The IQ Of A Dolphin?

There is no denying that dolphins are incredibly intelligent, but meaning their intelligence is difficult especially as humans tend to measure intelligence based on their own understanding of it.

When it comes to brain size, the bottlenose dolphin averages 1.6 kg in size, by comparison, the average human brain weighs about 1.35kg and a chimpanzee’s brain weighs 0.4kg.

A better way of measuring this is to compare the actual brain size with that expected for the species’ body size.

This is what’s known as the “Encephalization Quotient” (EQ), which is the ratio of brain size relative to the size of the body.

By this measure, brains with EQs larger than 1 are bigger than the expected size, whilst those with EQs less than 1 are smaller.

Humans have the highest EQ at 7.4, but the bottlenose dolphin has an EQ of 5.3, which is significantly larger than all other animals in the animal kingdom.

How Intelligent Are Dolphins?

Have you ever wondered why dolphins and Orca are the stars of the show at most aquariums and entertainment facilities?

It’s because they are MUCH smarter than so many animals on the planet. In the wild, these animals have extremely complex social structures and communicate through whistles, clicks, spinning, and more.

They have a sophisticated “language” that we humans are only just starting to understand and unravel.

A dolphin’s brain is four to five times larger than is expected for its body size.

With all this brainpower, they use it to their advantage and stay with their young for several years, teaching all there is to know about being a dolphin.

Dolphins are so intelligent that they are able to learn and be trained by human trainers, learning a variety of behavioral commands.

In the US Navy, dolphins have even been trained to find explosives underwater, they’re supremely intelligent animals, much more than they’re given credit for.

Research suggests that dolphins are even self-aware, which is a trait considered to be a sign of highly-developed, abstract thinking.

They can recognize themselves in a mirror which is a behavior that has previously only been recorded in humans and great apes.

Dolphins play with things they find in their environments and have even been seen using things as tools.

In Australia, bottlenose dolphins have been observed taking marine sponges off the seafloor and wearing them over their closed rostrum as protection whilst they probe into the seabed for fish.

Why Are Dolphins So Intelligent?

One of the main reasons dolphins are supremely intelligent is that they have large and complex brains that have evolved over thousands of generations.

Skills that they learn are passed down to their young as they stay with them for several years, meaning they are taught how to survive and thrive in the ocean from a young age.

Intelligence and highly-involved social interactions became the means of survival for dolphins, and their brains adapted to this over time.

Dolphins have huge brains in comparison to their size, second to only humans in brain-to-bodyweight ratio.

They have lots of brainpower which allows them to learn quickly, hunt effectively, and thrive in the wild.

Is A Dolphin More Intelligent Than A Dog?

Dogs did not become man’s best friend for no reason. They are highly intelligent animals and are capable of learning behaviors and being trained to an incredibly high standard.

So much so that they are used in military operations and police forces all around the world. But are dogs as intelligent as dolphins?

It’s a tricky one, in some areas, yes, but in others no. Dogs did not pass the self-awareness mirror test as dolphins did and dolphins appear to be much better problem solvers.

That said, both dolphins and dogs can use human pointing and eye-direction cutes to locate objects in the distance and be trained to a very high standard.

Dolphins are about as smart as a three-year-old child, and dogs are about as smart as two-year-old children.

There is really not much in it between the two when it comes to intelligence, but it is fair to say that dolphins are more intelligent than dogs.

Final Thoughts

So, are dolphins the smartest animals? It’s debatable, but they certainly could be. They are undoubtedly the most intelligent known animals in our oceans.

They have huge brains for their size which allows them to learn quickly and integrate into their pod’s complex social hierarchy.

Dolphins use a variety of mind-blowing hunting techniques that allow them to be dominant predators in the oceans.

They are so intelligent that they are even feared by large sharks. They know that if they butt a shark in its gills or soft underbelly they could potentially kill it, so even the most feared predators stay away from dolphins.

Hopefully, this post has been insightful and you’ve learned why dolphins are so intelligent today.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about dolphins and other marine life.