A good deal has been written about these animals which look so very much like fish.
What drives the numerous researchers in many countries to attempt to penetrate the “world of the dolphin”, to set up new laboratories, build new instruments and to put forward new hypotheses?
First of all, it must be said that this interest is not the outcome of some mass hypnosis, but is a conscious attempt to find out how it happened that a mammal managed to conquer the ocean and to populate it from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from the surface down to depths of hundreds of metres.
The study of the dolphins behaviour has its philosophical aspect, as well as the purely practical results. The dolphins, for example, possess a well-developed brain, communication signs, and a complex pattern congregation, which leads some researchers to declare that the dolphins are on a par with humans in intellectual development, or are even more advanced than man, whereas others maintain that these cetaceans are ordinary animals, which respond well to experiments. This leads to the argument about the philosophical criteria of intelligence, about the variety of expressions of intelligence, about the stages in the development of consciousness, about the possibility of man making contact with some other section of the animal kingdom, and about the responsibility this places on human beings.
THE DOLPHIN FAMILY. Research into the inter-relations within the school of dolphins provides grounds for supposing that their “social” system is matriarchal. We have observed, for instance, in one species of Arctic white dolphins how an old female – the elder of the school – was surrounded by her offspring grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of both sexes and of all ages up to the 11th generation.
The dolphin’s gregarious instinct is so strong that isolation leads to a deep and persistent depression. The animal loses its appetite completely,
as well as all interest in its environment. This can last a day or two, or even a week, and if there is no way of distracting the animal or of establishing contact with it, then it has to be reinstalled in the school or it will perish.
This affinity is most evident in young dolphins, but on the other hand, the trainers manage to establish contact with them more easily and quickly.
The affinity between mothers and their young is not restricted to the suckling period which may continue for 6 – 8 months. The mother will recognize its offspring among other dolphins even after several years of separation. This is probably due to a number of factors, the more important among them being the individual peculiarities of signals emitted by each animal, its own, so to speak, “personal” tune. We humans also recognize the voices of people we know by their timbre, intonation, tempo, and so on.
It has also been established by experiment that domination by one or another dolphin within the school is almost absent if the conditions in captivity are favourable. In this case groups of 2 – 4 dolphins are formed, apparently according to similarity of temperament and interests. These groups are very stable and dissolve only during breeding time. On the other hand, when abnormal situations arise, there emerges one dominating mammal.
Another form of domination is expressed in the management of the school. Among the bottle-nosed two old females played the part of leaders.