We have all heard the mantra that dolphins and whales (cetaceans) are highly intelligent animals. Some claim they’re on par with great apes and humans—maybe even smarter. But where does this concept come from?
There are two lines of thought. Firstly, a range of cetacean behaviors are interpreted as displays of notable intelligence. Second, cetaceans have very large brains; several species have brains that weigh more than human brains. We have large brains, and it is the structure and activity within these large brains that determines our abilities to examine, analyze, and manipulate the world in a very complex way. So it has been thought that any other animal that has a brain as large, or larger, must be using their brain for the same thing.
But this logic is based on a very specific assumption: that one gram of brain tissue has, on average, the same capacity to process information in the same way irrespective of the brain in which it is found. It is this assumption that I have questioned over the past 20 years and I have come to a very different conclusion.
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