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.

Running Time: 02:37


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.


Produced for NOVA scienceNOW by
Doug Hamilton
Edited by
Rob Tinworth

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