So you think your dog is smart?

So they can run and fetch stuff and you’ve trained them to carry your paper home from the shops… big deal. I notice you still have to bend down and pick their crap up every time you take them for a walk still.

If you want a really smart pet, it might be time to think of getting a dolphin. Dolphins brains are 25% bigger than humans for a start (although having a brain 25% larger than some humans I know is nothing to write home about) and they don’t sniff your visitors’ arses when they come round for tea either.

And it appears, the more scientists study dolphins the smarter they reckon they are. At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, they have trained their charges to keep their pool clean by holding on to any litter that may fall into it. When the dolphins pass the litter to a trainer, they get a fish as a reward. So what?, you may think. Perhaps if you train Fido to do the same with the back yard, he might start trading tin cans for bones, right?

Well, one dolphin has taken this system of trade to a brand new level. When Kelly, a female dolphin at the institute, finds a piece of litter in the pool she swims down and hides it under a rock. When a trainer comes past she goes down, tears a small piece of it, and trades it in for the usual fish. She then returns, tears off another piece, and gets another! Scientists have pointed to this behaviour as showing dolphins understand the world in a level far more complex way than previously thought.

If their so smart, how come they're in prison?

No fish? I'll have the ring and the watch...

Kelly hasn’t just limited her horizons to litter trading. One day, when a gull flew in and landed on the pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and was rewarded with a large quantity of fish. Inspired by this new fish-producing scheme, she hid some of the fish beneath her rock and when the trainers left, used them as bait to tempt more gulls into the pool. Kelly had hit pay dirt and she then taught the seagull-baiting plan to her calf who subsequently taught the rest of the young dolphins and seagulls are a heavily traded commodity in Mississippi this year!

Think of that next time your dog chews up the remote control… perhaps they’re just wanting to trade it for a bone?


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