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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Meet the brainiacs of the underwater world – deep thinkers with intricate emotional lives

Whales and dolphins have big brains, and large brained beings have a few things in common. We live long lives, we’re sociable and our behaviour is complex. Females give birth to just a few children and take extraordinary care of each baby, teaching them life skills and helping them to become independent.

Whales and dolphins behave in ways that demonstrate intelligence and a sophisticated mind. As well as learning as individuals, they pass their knowledge on to others.

© V. Mignon

Your donation will help us keep these remarkable beings safe from the many human threats they face

Like us, whales and dolphins have special cells in their brains called spindle neurons. These are associated with advanced abilities such as recognising, remembering, communicating, perceiving, adapting to change, problem-solving and understanding. So it seems that whales and dolphins are deep thinkers.

Not only that but the part of the whale and dolphin brain that processes emotions may be even more complex than our own – their social lives are intricate, requiring lots of skill to successfully manage relationships.

dolphin group V Mignon

Neuroscientist Lori Marino put it well when she said that ‘a dolphin alone is not really a dolphin; being a dolphin means being embedded in a complex social network – even more so than with humans.’ For species like orcas and bottlenose dolphins, family and community are everything. The emotional connections that tie them to one another are of a complexity that we can’t even imagine.

If people understood what intelligent and emotional beings whales and dolphins are, and realised that they are bonded together in ways that we can only try to understand, surely we’d stop killing them or confining them to tanks for our own amusement.

Did you know?

Whale and dolphin brain development graphic

The dolphin brain

Researchers in the US have used a new brain imaging technique to better understand how dolphins perceive the world.  By placing the brain of a dolphin (who had washed up dead in Carolina) in an MRI machine, they were able to create the first ever picture of an entire dolphin brain with all its connections.  The beautiful image below is a computer simulation showing the different pathways in a dolphin’s brain...wow!

DTI scan of dolphin brain Professor G Berns

Brain facts:

Sperm whales have the biggest brains on the planet

Orcas have the second largest brains on the planet

Dolphins have a brain to body ratio second only to humans

Dolphins and all toothed whales have a section of their brains for echolocation – this means they can ‘see’ using sonar.

Please help whales and dolphins with a donation

These intelligent, cultural beings need our help. Human activity threatens their way of life and often their survival. Your donation will help us protect them.

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