The more we study whales, the smarter they get

Natalie Angier contributed an excellent article in the NYT about the intelligence of whales (and dolphins).

Here are a few key excerpts:

…the evidence is high and mounting that the cetacean order includes species second only to humans in mental, social and behavioral complexity, and that maybe we shouldn’t talk about what we’re harvesting or harpooning, but whom


Whale brains are indeed giant. At roughly 18 pounds to our 3, the sperm whale brain is the largest of any animal on earth. More significantly, the ratio of brain size to body mass in the sperm whale and other toothed whales and dolphins is impressively high, bested only by ours.

While using the “size of brain” as a reason for valuing one species over another is inherently flawed, it at least gets people thinking about animals having brains, which is in itself a start.

The people who hunt whales want people to think of them as just any old fish, which they are not of course. They are mammals. They are creatures that emerged from the water at one point in history and then returned to it.

It’s interesting that the more science learns about whales and dolphins, the smarter they get.

And what about those creatures of the ocean we’ve yet to study?

My novel is about an anti-whaling activist organization and their efforts to halt whaling in the Southern Ocean. But the leader of this organization, who goes by the name of Aeneas, isn’t just out to save whales. When asked where he’ll go when the whaling season ends, he replies “I’ll head north. There’s always a hunting season for something somewhere.”