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Dolphins show truly impressive math skills

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In “Dolphins may be maths geniuses” (Discovery News,, 18 July 2012), Jennifer Viegas reports, “The brainy marine mammals could be far more skilled at math than was ever thought possible before”:

Inspiration for the new study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society A, came after lead author Tim Leighton watched an episode of the Discovery Channel’s Blue Planet series and saw dolphins blowing multiple tiny bubbles around prey as they hunted.

“I immediately got hooked, because I knew that no man-made sonar would be able to operate in such bubble water,” says Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at the University of Southampton.

“These dolphins were either ‘blinding’ their most spectacular sensory apparatus when hunting – which would be odd, though they still have sight to reply on – or they have a sonar that can do what human sonar cannot …Perhaps they have something amazing,” he adds.

Leighton and colleagues Paul White and student Gim Hwa Chua set out to determine what the amazing ability might be. More.

Like we said before, it’s not that dolphins understand math. In the sense of being able to appropriate the understanding. If they did, they could have done much more with their lives.

No, rather, something in them thinks. About that, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was right.

I don't know if they are doing math. Yet it shows the error of man that math was ever a big intellectual deal. Math complexity still is just about learning a few concepts. I'm sure these animals just are using their memory for basic minor concepts of math. Akll this stuff just shows the common heritage of powerful memory we all have. only humans think beyond memory's traits. Robert Byers

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