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NOVA ScienceNOW

Dolphin Reading Test

  • By Doug Hamilton
  • Posted 02.09.11
  • NOVA scienceNOW

The ability to read is not just limited to humans. The trainers at Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences in Honduras have trained their dolphins to read two-dimensional symbols as commands. In this video, watch as the pupil, a dolphin named Cedana, puts her reading skills to the test.

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Launch Video Running Time: 02:37

Transcript

Dolphin Reading Test

Posted: August 19, 2010

Doug Hamilton (narrating): Dolphin intelligence is expressed and tested in many different ways. Recently, at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences in Honduras trainer Teri Bolton has been working on a skill that we humans clearly associate with intelligence, reading.

Doug Hamilton: So who's this?

Teri Bolton: This is Cedana. This is her daughter Pigeon.

Doug Hamilton: And the baby doesn't want to leave mama?

Teri Bolton: No the baby, she's not independent enough yet. She's only seven months old, so yeah, she is going to be floating around behind mama a little bit.

Narrator: Teri and the trainer, Kenley, have gotten some of their dolphins to understand a command by reading it as a two dimensional picture written on a board.

Doug Hamilton: So the waves on this symbol…

Teri Bolton: Mean speed run, swim fast.

Narrator: Clearly, she got that one right. Cedana has twelve symbols in her vocabulary so far. Next up, Jump!

Doug Hamilton: When she screams like that, what is she doing?

Teri Bolton: She's responding to his bridge saying correct, and she's saying "Yes I am. You expected less?"

Narrator: Just when all was going so well, we noticed that Pigeon had gotten a little bored and swam away. So how will that affect Cedana's reading test? That is not a tail walk.

Doug Hamilton: She got that one wrong.

Narrator: Kenley gives Cendana the command to go find her daughter.

Teri Bolton: When the babies swim off in areas of the lagoon that the moms don't want them to be in or they get a little bit too far away the moms will sometimes do a behavior that enables them to see where their babies are at because that's their primary focus is their baby.

Narrator: It seems that like, as with any working mom, Cedana has to juggle the competing demands of pleasing her boss and, ultimately, taking care of her kid.

Doug Hamilton: So we've got the baby back.

Teri Bolton: Mom is feeling comfortable.

Doug Hamilton: Let's do it again.

Teri Bolton: Yep.

Teri Bolton: Yeah, good girl!

Doug Hamilton: So she got it right this time.

Teri Bolton: She got it right this time. And look where Pigeon is, Pigeon is occupied where she can see her.

Credits

Produced for NOVA scienceNOW by
Doug Hamilton
Edited by
Rob Tinworth

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