A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence

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A Comparison of Primate and Dolphin Intelligence as a Metaphor for the Validity of Comparative Studies of Intelligence

Primates and cetacean have been considered by some to be extremely intelligent creatures, second only to humans. Their exalted status in the animal kingdom has lead to their involvement in many experiments which hope to gain a better understanding of the basis of human intelligence. These experiments coupled with analysis of primate and cetaceans brain structure has lead to many theories as to the development of intelligence as a trait. Although these theories seem to be sound, there is some controversy over the degree to which non-human studies can be used to infer about the structure of human intelligence.

By many of the physical methods of comparing intelligence, such as measuring the brain size to body size ratio, cetacean surpass non-human primates and even rival human beings. For example dolphins have a cerebral cortex which is about 40% larger a human being's. Their cortex is also stratified in much the same way as a humans(1). The frontal lobe of dolphins is also developed to a level comparable to humans. In addition the parietal lobe of dolphins which "makes sense of the senses" is larger than the human parietal and frontal lobes combined (1). The similarities do not end there, most cetaceans have large and well developed temporal lobes which contain sections equivalent to Broca's and Wernicke's areas in humans (1).

Another major difference between primate and cetacean brains is that the primate brain favors the motor cortex, while "the cetaceans greatly favor the sensory region (and are not very balanced at all between the two)" (1). In the final measure of brain complexity, neural density ...

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...hat the have a similar brain structure; behavior is way to species specific to be studied without the common thread of the brain.

The study of non-human primates and dolphins has lead to many profound questions as to the nature of intelligence. And thought the answers provided to date have been disputed, the questions are not any less worth of being asked. But in order to get beyond the disputes, researchers must be willing to shed there antrocentric view of intelligence and accept that it is an trait which can evolve like any other trait. When this is done it may be finally possible to recognize the remarkable abilities that some many people seem to find in animals as evidence of animal intelligence not lesser human intelligence.

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