This is a relatively difficult question to answer. We do know that they have extremely large brains and incredibly complex problem solving and social skills. Their communication with one another is sophisticated too; dolphins have specialized clicks that serve as names for individual animals, for example, and they even seem to “talk about” dolphins that aren’t there. So far trying to teach them language has failed, but we haven’t made as much an effort to communicate in dolphin terms.
Research has shown that dolphins are the world’s second smartest creatures after humans. Scientists have suggested that dolphins be treated as ‘non-human persons’ because of their high level of intelligence. Dolphins have unique personalities, are able to think about the future, and have the ability to pick up new behaviors passed from one dolphin to another. In addition, dolphins can solve complex problems, which ‘implies complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication.’
Dolphin’s are second, behind humans, in having the largest brain-to-body mass ratio, the third place taken up by chimpanzees and other homonids. There seems to be a correllation behind brain to body mass though this connection is under-researched at the moment.
Dolphin communication systems may share similarities with our own, including arbitrary symbolism of utterances and the ability to maintain complex social structures in groups. Also, dolphins may have the ability to refer to and think on things that are not immediately present, which is said to be the crossing point from sentience to human-like sapience. However, the complexities and boundaries of dolphin communication is still in the hypothetical stage. Research is very young and evidence inconclusive as to how advanced dolphin whistles and clicks are and if they can be called a true “language.”
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