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Goldfish Smarter Than Dolphins 530

flergum writes "While dolphins may have big brains, laboratory rats and goldfish can outwit them. It appears that the large brains are a function of their environment rather than intelligence. From the article: 'Dolphins have a superabundance of glia and very few neurons... The dolphin's brain is not made for information processing it is designed to counter the thermal challenges of being a mammal in water.' I guess this means that the Navy will start recruiting and training goldfish for those mine search and destroy missions."
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Goldfish Smarter Than Dolphins

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  • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:50AM (#15946898)
    ...but don't goldfish only have a 3 second memory?
    • by FromageTheDog ( 775349 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:53AM (#15946904)
      What are we talking about, again?
    • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:57AM (#15946908)
      You know what really disturbs me? The number of people I've met who actually believe that idiotic myth. We really live in a pathetic state of education when this type of nonsense is accepted without question.
      • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:09AM (#15946946)
        Well they did say it in a movie... And we all know that what we see in movies are real, don't we?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by flumps ( 240328 )
          Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have dolphins with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?

          Number Two: Gold fish.

          Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.
          Number Two: They're mutated Gold fish.
          Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?
          Number Two: Absolutely.
          Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.
        • by jack1323 ( 301059 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:41AM (#15948460)
          Well, back in the day, movies used to be reel.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Omicron32 ( 646469 )
        And where is your evidence to the contrary?
        • by fbjon ( 692006 )
          Just think for a moment: how long would any animal with only a 3-second memory survive? How long would you survive?
          • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:04AM (#15947225) Homepage
            Mythbusters... They trained some goldfish to navigate a labyrinth.

            Though I think part of the confusion here is, that I always thought goldfish had 3 seconds of short term memory. A short short-term memory does not exclude the ability to learn specific behavior, what learned can just not be constructed from facts with many seconds in between.
            • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:28AM (#15947713) Homepage
              My boyfriend suffered a stroke which crippled his short-term memory. For example, one time when I was talking to Andy on the phone, he was distracted by something and put the phone down, and I had to yell to get his attention and remind him that I was still on the line. "Hi there! What's up?" Nonetheless, his therapists succeeded in teaching him some adaptive behaviors, and could still learn some new information with a lot of repetition (what year it is, where I was going to school, the fact that I'd moved). Furthermore, there are some kinds of learning which don't depend upon short-term memory; someone with no short-term memory may not remember why he avoids the place where he burned his hand on a hot pan, or why he prefers to be around one person but not another... but he does. For a good demonstration of short-term-memory deficiency, see "Finding Nemo"; Dory is a remarkably good example. I even used the "P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney" method (asking him to repeat it over and over) to get Andy to remember the name of the restaurant where we'd had dinner.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:28AM (#15947002)
          In a goldfish's behavior when you approach it for feeding. Believe me, they remember what your behavior indicates is about to happen.

        • by iapetus ( 24050 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:10AM (#15947115) Homepage
          How about here []?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by the_womble ( 580291 )
          My goldfish show learned behaviours. For example, they swim towards a person standing on the side of the pond on which we throw in food, but not on the other side.
      • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:00AM (#15947087) Journal

        Then there is this obsevation from another researcher in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

        But measuring intelligence by glia and cortex ratios could be just as unreliable as the big-brain theory, said the head of Vancouver Aquarium's cetacean research program, Lance Barrett-Lennard.

        Wading into the debate, Barrett-Lennard said the highly social networks of dolphins indicates they have strong social intelligence.

        ''A dolphin could have a brain the size of a walnut and it wouldn't affect the observations they live very complex and social lives,'' Barrett-Lennard said. ''They keep account of who their friends are, with very complicated hierarchies and allegiances.

        "The other thing is they have spatial maps. They know exactly where to go when they need to look for certain food.''

        And another thing... goldfish jump out of their bowls and *die*. Yep, self destructing is sure a smart thing to do. NOT! It's not like a Dolphin can jump out of the tank, catch a bus to the ocean and take off. Or maybe it might want to stop at a Starbucks on the way. Have to think on that a while. Anyway, it is probably a smarter thing to stay put for them. Glad I figured that out.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by arivanov ( 12034 )
          Yeah and dolphins do not beach themselves...

          Anyway, I agree with you, the social complexity of a pod and the level of communication a pod uses when hunting shows that the entire glia/cortex story is loads of bull. The guys who wrote that bull should go to a delphinarium and watch some dolphins for a while.

        • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @07:58AM (#15947602) Homepage
          Goldfish jump out of water to escape predators - probably when you've got a pike snapping at your tail, trying to learn to breath real quick seems like a good option. When they jump out of tanks, it's because they are highly stressed, and that usually is down to the environment you keep them in. I've left the lid off my tank all day (accidentally) and they haven't succumbed to the Marco Polo instinct.
    • Before we dismiss dolphins as a "dumb" animal, we should first read about how the U.S. Navy is training dolphins to perform complex tasks []. The lives of American sailors depends on the dolphins' reliably performing these tasks.

      What are these tasks? One task is locating anti-ship mines like those found in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War. Another task is identifying unauthorized swimmers (likes Islamic terrorists) seeking to enter a harbor where naval warships are anchored.

      I highly doubt that a gol

  • by LuminaireX ( 949185 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:52AM (#15946902)
    And thank us for all the fish? Surely goldfish don't eat themselves.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:13AM (#15946958)
      I just spent about 10 minutes with a fly swat trying to kill **one** fucking fly that is buzzing around indoors. Does that make the fly smarter than me?

      A fly has pretty much a hard-wired brain, but it is highly effective at finding food and keeping it alive.

      Some while ago, some researchers managed to get a dish of 1500 (or 15000??) rat brain cells to fly a 747 simulator -- including handling complex actions like landing with wind shear. I bet it took less time to train the rat brain than it takes for a human to attend flight school. I guess a rat brain in a pilot's uniform doesn't pick up as much skirt though.

  • by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:54AM (#15946906) Homepage
    I doubt it. I think this is just exactly what the dolphins want us to think. Perhaps they are hoping that we'll leave them alone if we think they're all idiots and they can get back to the heavy schedule of light swimming and intricate whistling they had planned.

    Well I'm on to you, dolphins! I'm putting the word out! I know you're smarter than goldfish and .. er.... wait.. a dolphin just called me and asked how long I could hold my breath. I think this worries me...
  • by puddpunk ( 629383 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:58AM (#15946912) Homepage
    Is a person that can figure out how to train an animal with a 3 second attention span: []
  • by DoctaWatson ( 38667 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:59AM (#15946917)
    FTA: "If you don't put a lid on top of the bowl a goldfish it will eventually jump out to enlarge the environment it is living in,"

    Truly an astounding display of cognition.
    • Furthermore (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:17AM (#15947137) Homepage
      1. Dolphins have a cognitive sense of self, as shown in their ability to recognize that they are seeing themselves in mirrors. This is an ability only found in dolphins and higher primates (including humans). This is related to their extremely complex social structures, which implies high intelligence. And this is just one area in which dolphins seem to show high intelligence.

      2. Glia are no longer considered 'noncomputational' by neuroscientists. Recent research seems to show that glia, and not just neurons, may perform computational tasks. This is highly controversial at present, but we are far from being able to say that just because an animal has lots of glia that that does not indicate a potential for high brain functions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Carewolf ( 581105 )
        Dolphins have a cognitive sense of self, as shown in their ability to recognize that they are seeing themselves in mirrors. This is an ability only found in dolphins and higher primates (including humans).

        Yeah, and in pigs and in dogs. There is even evidence that a few very smart cats can as well.

        So it's not that rare, but it so far it's only found the most adaptable of mammals.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by thePig ( 964303 )
        Even though, I am not sure about considering recognising oneself in the mirror as a true test of intelligence (since many mammals do it - maybe it is a function of mammalian brain ?, the parent is quite right on the second point.

        When the scientists took apart Einsteins brain [], they found that it was brimming with glial cells. Does that make him stupid ? Heck, I want my brain to contain more glials now ...

        I am not sure whether this study is fully correct, if it is surmised only on the fact that it has more g
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nasor ( 690345 )
  • by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:00AM (#15946923) Homepage
    So long, and thanks for all the flakes
  • by aktzin ( 882293 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:02AM (#15946928)
    This is nonsense. The Onion, America's Finest News Source, clearly proved this claim is totally without merit in this informative scientific article: []

    So as you can see, Douglas Adams was right all along!
  • Bizzaro science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kawolski ( 939414 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:04AM (#15946932)
    "You put an animal in a box, even a lab rat or gerbil, and the first thing it wants to do is climb out of it. If you don't put a lid on top of the bowl a goldfish it will eventually jump out to enlarge the environment it is living in," he said. "But a dolphin will never do that. In the marine parks, the dividers to keep the dolphins apart are only a foot or two above the water between the different pools," he said. Manger says the thought to jump over would simply not cross their unsophisticated minds.

    So because the dolphin isn't brainless enough to jump out of its tank and beach itself and die in the process, that makes them stupid? I suppose by comparison the child that plays away from road isn't as smart as the kid that plays in traffic, you know, the one that's seeking to "enlarge his environment" by becoming road pizza.
    • In the marine parks, the dividers to keep the dolphins apart are only a foot or two above the water between the different pools," he said. Manger says the thought to jump over would simply not cross their unsophisticated minds.

      So because the dolphin isn't brainless enough to jump out of its tank and beach itself and die in the process, that makes them stupid?

      You like dolphins? Me too. But it didn't stop me from noticing, that the guy also talked about fences partitioning larger tanks. Doplhins can clear

      • Re:Bizzaro science (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:44AM (#15947305)
        Sure, okay, maybe they don't comprehend the concept of going over something out of water. But consider that they probably have no space-escape instinct. In other words, dolphins have no reason to have developed claustraphbia, because it would be a very rare case indeed where getting stuck in a small space would even come up for a dolphin. They just plain don't run into closed spaces much. Considering this we realise they that probably concieve of space in a completly different way from how we do. I mean, they move in 3D, and rarely have any restrictions, but with constant forces pushing them one way or another. So I think this tell us alot about how dolphins conceive of the concept of free space, paths, and obstacles. It could be that the concept of being "blocked" from something isn't very inate. So they are bad at solving one type of problem but it doesn't tell us that they are "dumb" in any general sense.

        There is another issue at hand. Their brain is certainly different from ours, and they have followed a different evolutionary path, with a different set of problems. There is no telling what problems they might be GOOD at solving, evidence of one that they are bad at is not evidence that they are dumb. Consider many of the people in history who have been considered the most "intelligent". Many were schitzofrenic, which is fundamentally an inability to tell fact from fiction, and basically properly asses a situation in a rational way. The results of this can look extremly "stupid". Many have had social disorders as well, such that they did stupid things which caused them much pain in their lives... that's pretty "dumb". Still we consider them smart because they could solve problems no-one else could solve. There are many types of intelligence, and lack of one does not imply a low sum of them all.
        Basically, we think of intelligence as someone who can solve a problem we can't. Often this implies they can't solve some problems that we can. The differences between humans and dolphins are much larger than within our species, it seems likely that they are good at a fairly disparate class of problems from what we're good at. It has oft been speculated by AI theorists that problems we consider hard are actually fairly easy compared to the problems we consider easy. The one's we consider easy are just the one's evolution needed to get 99.9% right, I.E. walking, learning language, etc. Consider abstract algebra. There are only a few axioms, and that's all there is to learn. From then on it's just a few theorems. learning Abstract math is really quite simple compared to learning natural language, with it's thousands rules and idioms, we're just not wired for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Doplhins can clearly see and interact with other dolphins on the other side of the fence, and they still don't jump through this one-foot-over-water fence. Not to bright in my book.

        How do you know that? That was quite a leap for the scientist to take. There is a lot of assumption there. Y'all are assuming that the dolphin doesn't think of jumping the barrier. What if the dolphin isn't jumping it because it assumed it's not supposed to? (Unlikely, but the point is not to assume anything).


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )

      So because the dolphin isn't brainless enough to jump out of its tank and beach itself and die in the process, that makes them stupid?

      In this case, I'd say the dolphins and goldfish have one-up on you...

      He was CLEARLY talking about jumping out of a tank, into a larger body of water. He specifically mentioned jumping-out of fishing nets, and the like. You know, things that would make sense.

      I don't agree with his conclusions, though. It could be that Dolphins recognize they won't get fed if they leave, or

    • by kahei ( 466208 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:46AM (#15948091) Homepage

      Carp (eg goldfish) live in an environment in which jumping from one body of water to another offers a real chance of accessing a new environment, e.g. a new pond or stream. It also offers the ONLY chance of survival for carp trapped in small, evaporating puddles of water, which may well be how goldfish register their surroundings.

      By contrast, a dolphin has only a fairly low chance of being able to jump into a whole new ocean. A zero chance, in fact.

      Therefore, the tendency to jump may be more a reflection of the chance that jumping will do a given creature any good, rather than a sign of intelligence.

  • by ynotds ( 318243 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:09AM (#15946947) Homepage Journal
    I am reminded of the counter argument which noted that the enlarged part observed in Einstein's brain was due to the extra glia cells needed to support the higher activity of the same number of neurons.

    I've also dived with many varieties of fish, but our interaction with dolphins off Tiputa Pass and Trousers Point (you can find both easily on Google) was qualitatively different from any with fish.

    It basically sounds like Japanese propaganda to me. Might be time to make that donation to Sea Shepherd [].
  • by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb@com c a s t . n et> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:10AM (#15946949)
    I'm not anything close to the people who think dolphins are really really intelligent (though Douglas Adams makes a pretty good case), but IRTFA and I can not see how this is a serious article.

    It ends: "Manger also points to the tuna industry, which under consumer pressure has gone to great lengths to prevent dolphins from being caught and killed by accident in nets.

    "If they were really intelligent, they would just jump over the net because it doesn't come out of the water," he said."

    Umm, yea, they would if they ware smart? *sigh* - how did this make *any* news at all. Even assuming that the gist of the article is true (about the different types of brain material) the rest is crap - was it "peer reviewed" (as the article points out) by other idiots? Maybe it is all a Rovian plot to discredit I can not take the article and it's contents with any real sense of belief - it is so idiotic that I can not trust the rest of it. That's not to say they are incorrect - just that this individual article is is pure crap and one should not use it to base any belief on.
    • by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:52AM (#15947066)
      I can not see how this is a serious article.

      Well, Paul Manger [] is a real scientist who's published 50 articles, most if not all in neuroscience areas, some with pretty high [] numbers of citations, and quite a few of those articles are on cetaceans. The article that the story is based upon was published in Biological Reviews, which has an impact factor of 6 - it's clearly not a tin-pot cruddy journal which publishes any old crap. (and while IFs aren't as good a guide to a journal's credibility as our esteemed granting bodies would like us to believe, they do give some measure of an article's worth)

      The news story, although bizarely linked to Aljazeera (!), is attributed to Reuters down the bottom. So it's not quite as "pure crap" as you might think - the odd comments about dolphins not jumping over nets are probably more a result of the journalist trying to make a snappy story out of it all, rather than being the sole basis of Paul Manger's research!
      • From PubMed [] ... Note that nowhere in the abstract is the claim made that dolphins are stupid; it merely suggests that intelligence is not the driving force behind their large brain size. (Unfortunately I don't have access to the article itself, so who knows what claims he makes in the body of the text ... but the abstract sounds logical enough)

        An examination of cetacean brain structure with a novel hypothesis correlating thermogenesis to the evolution of a big brain.

        * Manger PR.

        School of Anatomical Scienc

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zak3056 ( 69287 )
        The news story, although bizarely linked to Aljazeera (!), is attributed to Reuters down the bottom. So it's not quite as "pure crap" as you might think

        Yes, because it's not like Reuters has had issues with credibility in the recent past, or anything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jugalator ( 259273 )
      The argument about fish nets is real poor, because dolphins can still get stuck in those nets while being smarter than goldfish. Unless goldfish elegantly finds their way out of the equivalent of a large fish nets (which goldfish get through from physical size reasons), it doesn't prove one thing or another. Unless there are fish or marine mammals that don't get stuck from pure intelligence, it doesn't say dolphins are more stupid than any others in particular.
  • by vinsci ( 537958 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:11AM (#15946954) Journal
    ...and that's just a few of the top results from a quick Google search.
  • by scarlac ( 768893 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:14AM (#15946962) Homepage
    I for one welcome our new Goldfish Overlords
  • I've read somewhere that goldfish have a short-term memory. They seem not to be able to remember anything that happened a few dozen seconds earlier.

    If thats true, I will keep the dolphin. Thanks
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shawb ( 16347 )
      That short term memory theory? Definately not true. It's a false theory used as justification for keeping goldfish in a bowl, which is in reality cruel. Goldfish raised in a stimulating environment can be quite intelligent, being able to be trained such things as playing basketball (can not find source right now) soccer [], and sometimes even synchronized swimming [] (Goldfish are not naturally schooling fish per say, so this behavior is definately trained.) And... umm... Texas Holdem []. I'm not quite sure abo
  • by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:18AM (#15946974)
    In a related story, goldfish have also been found to be smarter than the scientists that came up with this very inconclusive study.

    . o o O ( Where are all the giant-brained goldfish? )

  • by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:18AM (#15946975)
    I'd take an octopus any day of the week! Not only are they excellent problem solvers, they give good massages.
  • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:19AM (#15946978)
    You can count the number of neurons vs glia all day long, but at the end of the day dolphins seem to have MUCH better results than goldfish. Just because a certain feature normally has a certain result doesn't mean you can rewrite reality when it doesn't!

    If the word "intelligence" was defined as a certain ratio of neurons to glia, he'd have a point. Of course, "intelligence" wouldn't matter so much, because it would only matter in certain situations. Much like "clock speed".

    I also don't see how the "jumping out of the bowl/over the net" even deserves a mention...unless we now have a way of interviewing dolphins and goldfish.
  • Why not use fat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:19AM (#15946979) Homepage
    It is surely much more energy efficient to surround the brain with a layer of fat/blubber and so retain the heat that the brain generates rather than have special cells to generate extra heat -- which is then lost.

    Nature (evolution) tends to take the most efficient solution -- natural selection will favour the animals that don't need to expend so much energy to achieve the same result.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Fullhazard ( 985772 )
      Because the fat would have to have two big holes in it, through which massive amounts of blood is pumped every minute.
      It'd be like getting really good insulation on your house, then opening all the windows. It wouldn't stay warm very long.
  • We already knew that dolphins are stupid, especially on land []...
  • I, for one, defy our would-be dolphin overlords!
  • In future news two sequels to Finding Nemo will come out "Recruiting Nemo" and "Training Nemo".
  • by jopet ( 538074 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:48AM (#15947058) Journal
    While it is obvious and quite dated knowledge that the sheer size of a brain is no indicator for "intelligence" (let us avoid the discussion what intelligence is in the first place for the moment), it is provably wrong that dolphins just do what they are "conditioned" to do. There have been many experiments that show that dolphins are capable to do a lot more than just demonstrate conditioned reflexes, including understand a several-word sign language and coming up with what could be called creative solutions.

    Nothing of that sort has been demonstrated for goldfish yet, but that does not mean it cannot be done, just that we simply do not know yet.

    It has been shown for other species that they show surprisingly intelligent behaviour when trained and it is probably impossible to defined what "more intelligent" should mean for non-humans (it is already quite arbitrarily defined for humans). So the bottom line is - more animals are more intelligent than most people think. And dolphins have shown a quite surprising range of abilities that was not observed in any other marine animal yet.
  • by cheros ( 223479 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:59AM (#15947086)
    #23: Delude humans. Check.

    You guys have obviously already forgotten about the mice then? :-)

    = Ch =
  • by Jesus IS the Devil ( 317662 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:24AM (#15947154)
    People dumber than fish have been known to become presidents....
  • What a crock (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SoupIsGoodFood_42 ( 521389 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:35AM (#15947174)
    Dolphins get trapped in nets because they can't detect them, not because they're too stupid to know what to do. Aside from the obvious fact, as someone else has already pointed out, that a goldfish that jumps out of it's bowl and dies isn't nessearily very smart, there are could also be complex psychological factors at play as to why dolphins might not attempt to escape.

    Dolphins are one of the few creatures that play games, such as playing tag with a peice of seaweed, or blowing bubble rings. This type of behaviour is often an indicator of high intelligence. To say that a Dolphin isn't much smarter than a Goldfish is an insult to both Dolphins and any human with half a brain to realise this article is a crock.
    • by cciRRus ( 889392 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:05AM (#15947871)
      Just to add on. I remember watching this in the Discovery Channel. Most people assumed that the dolphins are intelligent and friendly such that when boats sail in the ocean, they swim alongside the boat or even in front of the boat just to mingle with their human friends. However, this was not the *real* reason. Apparently, they noticed that there are a bunch of smaller, baby dolphins swimming in the opposite direction away from the boat, while those that mingle with the humans are the adult dolphins. This can be seen that the adults are distracting the humans while their youngs can swim off to a safer place. Such altruistic behaviour is hard to find in the aquatic world.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mamba-mamba ( 445365 )

        Dolphins and porpoises don't swim alongside boats, per se. They swim in the bow wave. Presumably they do this because they can get a free ride due to the physics of bow-wave formation. That is, with minimal effort, they can travel at the same speed as the boat. This is similar to birds (or gliders) staying aloft for long stretches of time by keeping themselves in the lift near a sea cliff.

        With the dolphins, sometimes there are a bunch hovering around beside the boat because they can't all fit in the bow
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You hit it right on the head. How many times have you seen someone walk into a glass door? I've seen it a few times and it's hilarious. For that matter, I've seen people walk into non-transparent objects (even done it myself). That doesn't mean humans are unintelligent, just unaware of all their surroundings.
  • by azbot ( 544794 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:42AM (#15947191)
    I disagree that jumping out of ones environment is a smart move, especially if you don't know what's on the other side. I disagree that dolphins are dumb because they get caught in nets because: a) how do you jump over a net if you find your self in the absolute center? b) maybe most do 'just jump over' and the ones caught are the dumb few. c) if a dolphin doesn't jump over a net it will become sushi, a dolphin probably doesn't know that it should jump over a net unless it knows it's dangerous, if a dolphin knows the net is dangerous - it's probably already been caught (see sushi statement). d) nets (i think) are designed to be fairly invisible, dolphins aren't known for having excellent eyesight and I don't know if their echo location is good enough to spot a net... Let's have a fish off and stick a dolphin and a goldfish in a tank and see who wins... actually to make it fair lets stick quite a few goldfish in there...
  • Clearly it was a slow news weekend. This report got a ton of coverage, which seems unwarranted given some of the abitrary standards of "intelligence" put forward by the researchers. The Wikipedia article on dolphin intelligence [] provides a far better balanced view of the subject.

    I had a quick look at the University of the Witwatersrand website. Dr. Manger is a lecturer at the School of Anatomical Sciences. He is not an animal behaviorologist.

    While Dr. Manger is no doubt qualified to discuss the structure of a dolphin's brain, he is in no better qualified to draw conclusions about dolphin intelligence than any of us here on Slashdot. Perhaps this explains some of his eccentric statements, or why his opinions contrast so sharply with other research indicating a high level of social complexity in dolphin behavior.

    That Dr. Manger's study is "peer-reviewed" is really neither here or nor there, since peer review usually occurs within an author's specialty and Manger's most controversial findings transcend his field.

    Dr. Manger's comment that dolphins should be smart enough to jump out of tuna nets would seem simply bizzare if they weren't so outright callous.

  • by tezza ( 539307 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:12AM (#15947237)
    As a Delphinidaephile I can recommend Tempura Dolphin loin with Soy Sauce.

    The only comparable goldfish dish is too much like Whitebait.

  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:12AM (#15947238) Homepage Journal
    Glial cells apparently aren't really just placeholders and heaters. Scientific American ran a really good article a while back called "Did Scientists Miss Half the Brain?". (There is what appears to be a summary at this location [].) It details a modern understanding of brain structure, which has overturned the former conception of glial cells as "just" structural elements supporting neurons. It would seem that glial cells can both sense and emit neurotransmitters, and those neurotransmitters can affect the operation of neurons. So linked to the electrochemical network we usually think of as the brain is another purely chemical one as well.

    Also, even in humans, there is a "superabundance" of glial cells, in that there are approximately 10 glial cells [] for every neuron.
  • by perrin ( 891 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:20AM (#15947253)
    What is really disturbing about this story is not how wrong it is, but how it spread like wildfire through the echo chamber that is the web pages of the "respectable" news media. There seems to be zero interest in vetting stories anymore. Anything that sounds like a sensation and be linked to some other news page somewhere, is worth publishing, without a critical word added.

    Back on topic, did you know that as far as we know, only three animals understand the concept of 'pointing at something'? These three are humans, chimpanzees and dolphins. Try it with your cat or dog. It will continue to look at your hand, not where you want it look, until the cows come home. Understanding symbols that stand for vectors in space require a greal deal of abstract thinking.
  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:45AM (#15947308) Homepage
    Bart and Lisa are doing some recycling of those plastic ring things that hold six-packs of beer together.

    Lisa: And, you have to cut these up first. Otherwise, animals get caught in them.

    Bart: Only the stupid ones.
  • by Phoenix ( 2762 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:45AM (#15947784)
    They have shown that dolphins have pattern recognition, the ability to learn and to anticipate the next part of a sequence. Dolphins have a language in which they commnicate with others of thier species. They have complex social structures. They can solve puzzles, they can be trained to do complex tasks.

    I'm not saying that they're as smart as me, but they are at least as smart as other higher order animals, and certainly smarter than my goldfish who keeps trying to commit suicide.
  • Cyprinidae (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:15AM (#15948283) Homepage Journal
    First of all: goldfish are not two inch long fish you keep in a half gallon glass bowl. Those are baby fish that are fated to die drinking their own piss. Goldfish are properly pond fish like koi. They aren't nearly as big as koi, but when full grown they can be over a foot long and quite active and beefy. I have a 55 gallon tank, and if I were to stock it with goldfish, there would only be room for one, maybe two with considerable effort and skill applied.

    Keeping mature goldfish is reputed to be like keeping dogs -- the fish recognize individuals and respond to them.

    Goldfish, like koi, are carp, which are members of the Cyprinid family of fishes. Cyprinids include many species that are well known in the aquarium hobby: danios, rasboras, barbs etc. Many of these species are popular because they are active and considered highly intelligent.

    I cycled my tank (established a colony of beneficial waste recycling bacteria) using a school of White Clouds, a cyprinid minnow about an inch long and closely related to rasboras. White clouds are attractive,active, peaceful little fish that are extremely hardy and good for this purpose (incidentally a much better candidate for "goldfish bowls" than goldfish, provided you're committed to daily water changes). They are also astonishingly intelligent.

    My White Cloud school mostly patrolled the top third of my tank, snatching food from the surface or as it sank slowly. After several months, I introduced a pair of Corydoras -- a tiny armored cat fish -- to the the tank. Catfish of course are bottom feeders, and are constantly foraging in the gravel. When my White Clouds saw this, they started foraging in the gravel too. Their mouths point upward for snatching food from the surface, so they have to turn over on their backs to do it.

    Clearly, this is not "instinctive" behavior. They saw and learned. With a brain that I doubt amounts to more than a cubic millimeter in volume.

    The behavior of these fish are interesting; you need to keep a largish school to see the full range. Somewhere around eight or nine fish, suddenly you see a completely different set of behaviors emerge. Clearly they are intelligent fish despite their tiny size, but much of that intelligence comes out when there are enough fish for them to feel comfortable and confident.

    Later I introduced some Danios to the tank, which changed the schooling behavior of the White Clouds. Danios, who are supposedly relatively peaceful and playful, have strong hierarchies in which the strongest fish (usually the most irridescent) claim territories. The "playful" behavior, if you watch closely, consists of the strongest fish chasing the next strongest fish out of his territory, and so on down the line. White Clouds aren't hierarchical, but they apparently look enough like danios to get chased. In my tank, the strongest danio cruised a territory consisting the top half foot of water and about 1/3 the surface area of the tank. So the White Clouds started lurking as individuals or groups of two or three in out of the way places. After adding another pair of white clouds, the behavior of the school changed. A pair of the more robust White Clouds who had previously been lurking far from the aggressive danio began patrolling the edge of the his territory. When a weaker white cloud strayed into the danio's territory and the danio attacked, they'd dart in to nip at his flanks. After a few days of this the danio's territory shrunk so that the White Clouds could school like they used to.

    Instinctive behavior? In this case, certainly. The point is that these fish have evolved to school in hostile environments; evolution provided them with highly capable brains for the task of survival, depsite their small size. Furthermore, schooling is more than just huddling together to reduce the risk of predation to an individual in the school, these fish have social behaviors that strengthen the school. This means that there are signals, and coordination, and a
  • I read an article in Scientific American about how dolphins play with each other or by themselves when they're bored. Older dolphins will teach younger ones how to generate complex vorticies in the water, and then inject them with air, making these weird stable rings that they can fool around with. I just googled for the info, and this story [] popped up. My goldfish are pretty clever for such little animals, I guess, but they certainly don't play like this.

    Moreover, the hunting patterns of dolphins are considerably more complex and 'intelligent-looking' than those of goldfish. Dolphins are more social, sure, but it takes more than a bunch of friendly animals to realize that they can use fishing nets to hunt.

    Brain size and composition have ALWAYS been a bad indicator of intelligence. If it were the case merely that a big brain was enough to be smart, we'd be badly outclassed. From human to human, we'd see fair differences in intelligence, just based on the size of the brain (assuming that most human brains are composed similarly, and by increasing size, we merely increase the number of cells making up that brain -- tell me if that assumption is terribly off). Obviously this isn't true.

    Fact of the situation: we're REALLY bad at figuring out what makes intelligence and what makes the brain work at all. I don't buy that goldfish are smarter yet. One study or group of studies is insufficient to make me believe this in the face of the observable evidence of intelligence or lack thereof.
  • Jerry Levy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @01:04PM (#15949545)
    Jerry Levy (one of my favorite psychologists) has an interesting theory about dolphins and how dumber they are then people expect. Intelligence tests do find that the big-brained dolphins are not anywhere near as clever as they ought to be judging by brain size.

    Humans have a great big corpus collousum -- it keeps both hemispheres of the brain at the same activation level. When we sleep, both sides function in unison -- I think we're talking deep sleep, here, not REM, where the two hemispheres are both active.

    Dolphins cannot sleep for long. They need to breath, which means coming up for air, and so the corpus callousum of the dolphin is small -- the two hemispheres do NOT have the same activation. One goes flat while the other stays active. Hence, the dolphin is only really effectively using about half his brain at any time.

    And hence, the dolphin is only half as smart as you'd expect per the brain size.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith