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How Intelligent Are Dolphins?

Dolphins are very intelligent creatures. Many tests have been performed on dolphins to find out just how intelligent they can really be. There’s more to these amazing animals than just jumping out of the water and maybe through a hoop. Check out some examples and reasons why dolphins are so intelligent in this article.


A dolphin being researched on in Mississippi, at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, has been found to have been training humans, and not the other way around. But how is this possible? As away to help train the dolphins, and as a way to help keep the pools clean, dolphins are taught to pick up any debris, litter, or garbage inside the pool and bring it to the trainers, where they would then be awarded a fish for every piece they bring in. curiously, however, one dolphin in particular found a loophole. When the dolphin found a piece of paper in the pool, it would rush down to the bottom and find a rock, place the paper under the rock, rip off a chunk of paper, and give it back to the humans. The interesting concept here is that the dolphin no matter the size of the litter that was returned, the reward was always the same, and the dolphin started to capitalize on this method to gain more fish. The ingenious behavior didn’t stop there. One day, a gull had flown into the pool where this particular dolphin was residing in, and the dolphin caught the gull and waited for trainers to turn it in. Upon delivery of the gull to trainers, the trainers rewarded this dolphin with many fish, which the dolphin enjoyed- all but one. The last fish, the dolphin had hidden down in the rocks and waited for the perfect moment, where the dolphin would retrieve the fish and use it to lure gulls in to catch them for the big reward. This dolphin caught her calf how to use this method, who in turn taught other calves to really capitalize on fish. This method, along with the communication, shows that dolphins are indeed intelligent and craft species, able to use reason to some extent to capitalize and profit in certain scenarios.


In some circles, an animal’s ability to be self aware is a sign of intelligence. Although self awareness is not scientifically defined, it is thought to be the beginning to advanced brain processes, such as thinking about thinking, that humans possess. To test for self awareness, a mirror test is used. The mirror test has researchers mark and animal with temporary dye and a mirror is put in front of them to see if they exhibit any signs of self recognition. With dolphins, it is difficult to tell if their behavior with the mirror indicates social behavior or self recognition, but a study in the mid-90’s concluded that dolphins are in fact self aware and have passed the mirror test.


Dolphins are truly amazing creatures, impressing researchers with their intellect every day. Take a dolphin cruise Destin has to offer, to see dolphins in the wild and how they use their social behavior to live together and show off to humans!