Today at Discovery News you can find out why dolphins are now believed to be the world's second most intelligent animals, with only humans displaying greater brainpower.
Intelligence itself is a very loaded issue. It's difficult to compare one individual's brilliance with that of another within the same species, much less to attempt to compare intelligence among multiple species. Intelligence is just one component of a species' survival, so one can argue that spiders have evolved to be as smart as they need to be for their species to continue, rats are as brainy as they need to be, and so on.
If human standards for intelligence are applied to non-human animals, however, dolphins come very close to our own brain aptitude levels, suggests Emory University dolphin expert Lori Marino.
She's performed MRI scans of dolphin brains. The scans prove dolphin brains are:
·big, relative to body size
·intricate, with a neocortex "more highly convoluted than our own"
·structured to allow for self-awareness and the processing of what Marino calls "complex emotions"
All animals share the capacity for emotions, she explained, but the part of the dolphin brain associated with processing emotional information is particularly expanded.
Why then did dolphins evolve to become so brainy?
Marino and her colleagues have analyzed modern dolphins and remains of ancient marine mammals to help answer that question.