New research shines a light on cetacean brain size and it’s impact on their lives

17th Oct 2017

A bottlenose dolphin breaching (credit: Peter Andrews)

New research has highlighted the connection between cetacean brain size and their relative intelligence, and shown a parallel with the development of larger brains in primates such as humans.

The research, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, looked at ninety different species of cetacean and found evidence that there is a connection between brain size and the social and cultural bonds seen within cetacean groups.

The study draws an interesting parallel between human society, with whales and dolphins living in similarly tight knit social groups, showing inter-species cooperation and even showing signs of regional dialects.

As well as allowing scientists to predict the relative intelligence of species by assessing brain size, the research may also provide useful insights into the development of human society.

Speaking in the Daily Telegraph, Assistant Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics said: “This research isn’t just about looking at the intelligence of whales and dolphins, it also has important anthropological ramifications as well. In order to move toward a more general theory of human behaviour, we need to understand what makes humans so different from other animals. And to do this, we need a control group. Compared to primates, cetaceans are a more “alien” control group.”

ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors have seen many behaviours that exhibit these complex social structures, including some phenomenal examples of bubble-net feeding and fascinating interactions between common and striped dolphins. Our 2017 courses are approaching fast, so to help with our research you can sign up today here.