Len Robbins

Len Robbins

LEN ROBBINS

I was in the doctor’s office recently, waiting to have a staple removed from my tongue, when I noticed an item in Cat Fancy magazine. The story claimed that dolphins were as intelligent as humans.

“I don’ts thinks so,” I bellowed from my chair in the crowded waiting room.

The article claimed that bottlenose dolphins have a brain mass of 1500-to-1700 grams, which is greater than that of humans (1300-to-1400 grams). The bigger the brain, the theory was, the smarter the creature.

I couldn’t believe what my eyes were hearing. Sure, dolphins are cute and seem friendly enough, but so is Kellie Pickler. That doesn’t make them, or her, smarter than your average human toddler.

Thoroughly confused, I donned my press hat and decided to do some investigative journalism on the matter, and explore and analyze the reasons why folks consider dolphins so intelligent. Here they be:

• Dolphins have empathy for people – There are all kinds of stories about dolphins rescuing people and protecting them from harm. Actor Dick Van Dyke (who’s 94 years old and still living large) has recounted a story where he fell asleep surfing (huh?), and a group of porpoises (different from dolphins, but closely related) directed him back to safety. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard about any porpoise heroics since – chiefly because Van Dyke tripped all over them while trying to get back on shore.

But just because they are sociable with humans and shepherded Dick Van Dyke back to the beach doesn’t mean they possess superior intellect. Dogs do that all the time.

Humans – +1.

• Dolphins are the smartest fish in the sea – Dolphins are the only water-dwelling creatures I know of that don’t fall for that lame worm-on-a-hook ploy. For that, I give them credit, although I can’t imagine that if a pizza fell down from the sky with a hook in it, any normal person would take a huge bite from it. Crystal meth on a hook in West Virginia – that’s a different story.

Give the dolphins +1 since we don’t realize they’re mammals and not “fish.”

• Dolphins won’t attack humans – Not true. They do attack humans – if you mess with them. There have been reports of dolphin attacks on people, including one reported death in the last decade. By comparison, in the United States, the annual average of shark attack fatalities is one. Yes, one. The shark lobby needs a new publicist.

There are 10 times more Christmas tree fatalities each year than shark or dolphin attacks on humans.

Humans, on the other hand, kill sharks, dolphins, Christmas trees, and each other wantonly. Give the dolphins +1.

• Dolphins can communicate – So what? So can people. Dolphins use ultrasonic sound and sonar to communicate, and also use facial expressions and body language like humans. Dolphins have also been taught sign language in certain instances.

Obviously, humans have vocal chords, and thus, a little more to work with in terms of communication. Give humans +.5.

• Size matters? As stated, dolphins have bigger brains than humans. But scientists have found that humans (other than Charlie Sheen) have more brain cells. The part of the dolphin brain that processes sound is up to 250 times larger in a dolphin than a human. Big whoop – we invented fire, the wheel, and remote control. Give humans +.5.

So, add up the scores, and just as I thought, humans win in a landslide. USA! USA! USA!

LEN ROBBINS’ syndicated newspaper column appears in more than 20 newspapers in the South. He and his wife and three children live in Homerville, Georgia (population: 2,890), next to the Okefenokee Swamp.

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