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Katie looking for dolphins_Katie Dyke

My magical island adventure – proof you don’t have to leave the UK to have amazing dolphin encounters

You don't have to travel outside of the UK to enjoy awesome wildlife encounters. Around...
Risso's dolphin: WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Remarkable Risso’s dolphins – how we’re studying them to protect them

And just like that, another season of field research studying remarkable Risso's dolphins came to...
Dead dolphins on the beach

Faroe Islands whale and dolphin slaughter – what have we done and what are we doing?

The massacre of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður on the Faroe Islands on 12th...
© WDC

The horror – reflecting on the massacre of 1,428 dolphins on the Faroe Islands

Like you and millions of people around the globe, I felt horrified by the news...
Bottlenose dolphins in never-ending lockdown at Loro Parque, Tenerife

The whales and dolphins trapped in never-ending lockdown – hearing their stories

Every whale and dolphin in captivity is an individual with a life history and around...
Orcalab

Surviving not living. Why we have to end lockdown for captive whales and dolphins

I first visited OrcaLab in British Columbia over 30 years ago and vividly remember my...
Shorewatchers

Our volunteer citizen scientists are making waves in Scotland

I'm lucky enough to do a job that I love. For the last seven years...
The dolphins, including a newborn, got into trouble in Stornaway Harbour - WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Success for emergency rescue after dolphins got trapped in Scottish harbour

I'm stationed for a month on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We've...

Meet the brainiacs of the underwater world – deep thinkers with intricate emotional lives

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.

Whales and dolphins behave in ways that demonstrate intelligence and a sophisticated mind. As well as learning as individuals, they pass their knowledge on to others.

© V. Mignon

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.

dolphin group V Mignon

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.

If people understood what intelligent and emotional beings whales and dolphins are, and realised that they are bonded together in ways that we can only try to understand, surely we’d stop killing them or confining them to tanks for our own amusement.

Did you know?

Whale and dolphin brain development graphic

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!

DTI scan of dolphin brain Professor G Berns

Brain facts:

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.

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About Julia Pix

Communications manager - Public Engagement

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