Whales and dolphins have big brains, and large brained beings have a few things in common. We live long lives, we’re sociable and our behaviour is complex. Females give birth to just a few children and take extraordinary care of each baby, teaching them life skills and helping them to become independent.
Your donation will help us keep these remarkable beings safe from the many human threats they face
Like us, whales and dolphins have special cells in their brains called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognising, remembering, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. So it seems that whales and dolphins are deep thinkers.
Not only that but the part of the whale and dolphin brain that processes emotions may be even more complex than our own – their social lives are intricate, requiring lots of skill to successfully manage relationships.
Neuroscientist Lori Marino put it well when she said that ‘a dolphin alone is not really a dolphin; being a dolphin means being embedded in a complex social network – even more so than with humans.’ For species like orcas and bottlenose dolphins, family and community are everything. The emotional connections that tie them to one another are of a complexity that we can’t even imagine.
The dolphin brain
Researchers in the US have used a new brain imaging technique to better understand how dolphins perceive the world. By placing the brain of a dolphin (who had washed up dead in Carolina) in an MRI machine, they were able to create the first ever picture of an entire dolphin brain with all its connections. The beautiful image below is a computer simulation showing the different pathways in a dolphin’s brain...wow!
Sperm whales have the biggest brains on the planet
Orcas have the second largest brains on the planet
Dolphins have a brain to body ratio second only to humans
Dolphins and all toothed whales have a section of their brains for echolocation – this means they can ‘see’ using sonar.
Please help whales and dolphins with a donation
These intelligent, cultural beings need our help. Human activity threatens their way of life and often their survival. Your donation will help us protect them.