They’re labeled the smartest mammals on Earth that aren’t human, and at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the Dolphin is earning her reputation. In fact, it could very well be that she has now got the upper hand on her human trainers… or pets?
All the Dolphins at the center are trained to retrieve trash that has mistakenly fallen in to their pools. Upon seeing a nearby trainer, they are to take said trash to the trainer. In return, they receive a fish for their cleanliness.
However it seems that Kelly has found a loophole in the system, and is exploiting it to interesting ends. She hoards her trash, underneath a rock at the bottom of her pool, and when she sees a trainer she goes down and removes a piece of paper or trash to get her fish. However she won’t use all her paper at once, instead she holds on to them for the future. It is an interesting behavior, considering that it is very much like humans storing food for the winter; it displays an awareness of tomorrow.
Dolphins have long been observed to take great care and exhibit much intelligence in their day to day lives. Scientists have observed a dolphin using the spiny body of a dead scorpion fish to extricate a moray eel out of a crevice.
Comparatively, in Australia, Dolphins have been witnessed to place sea-sponges over their snouts as they star poking around in the surrounding area. This protection helps them from being stung by stonefish and stingrays.
But it isn’t just these behaviors that seem to prove their intelligence, but also the commonalities with humans in the way that they play and learn.
Younger dolphin calves will most likely learn new things in an attempt to keep up with those around them, rather than learn directly from their mothers. From balancing kelp on their tail to swimming through bubble rings, it seems an effort to match their peers is what drives them on.
And just as young children are always trying to match those around them, so they want to enjoy the activity rather than just the outcome. It isn’t always a case of the means justifying the ends. The same goes for dolphins, who seem to beef up the level of difficulty of the games they create for themselves.
It is their ability to understand sentences of sign language that astound though, with a sentence like “touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it” returning just that from the dolphin. This proves more than just rigorous training is the answer, but an understanding of what we are asking of them.
So next time you’re in the water with the dolphins, as I hope to be one day, make sure you tip your hat to them. It may very well be that the Simpsons got it right again that we might be facing an invasion from Dolphins any day now.
Posted by Josh Hill
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