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Title: The Dolphin in History
Author: Lilly, John C., Montagu, Ashley
Language: English
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    [Illustration: The Dionysos Cup by Exekias, _c._ 540 B.C.
    _Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich. Photograph by Dr. Max

                              The Dolphin
                               in History

                  _Papers delivered by Ashley Montagu
                    and John C. Lilly at a symposium
                 at the Clark Library, 13 October 1962_

                 _University of California, Los Angeles


Recently the dolphin has become the focus of much scientific interest
and investigation which have led to flattering pronouncements about its
remarkable intelligence, amiability, and astonishing friendliness
towards man. It was in consequence of such activities that a symposium
was held at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library to consider the
background to contemporary studies of the dolphin. The presentations of
Dr. Ashley Montagu and Dr. John C. Lilly were received so favorably that
it was decided to make them more widely available in the present form.

As will be readily apparent to any reader, Dr. Montagu has demonstrated
conclusively that had the writings of the ancients been heeded we should
long since have paid proper respect to this intelligent mammal, and Dr.
Lilly has reinforced such classical appreciation by an account of his
own astonishing observations of dolphin behavior. It is to be hoped that
these two accounts will contribute to a lasting appreciation of our
remarkable aquatic friend.

                                                           C.D. O’Malley


                       THE HISTORY OF THE DOLPHIN

                          _by_ Ashley Montagu

  _The friendly_ Dolphin, _while within the maine,
  At libertie delightes, to sport and play,
  Himselfe is fresh, and doth no whit retaine
  The brinish saltnes of the boundless Sea
  Wherein he lives. Such is the secret skill
  Of Nature working, all thinges at her will._
                                 Henry Peacham, _Minerva Britanna_, 1612

                      _The History of the Dolphin_

                           By ASHLEY MONTAGU

  _I have met with a story, which, although authenticated by undoubted
  evidence, looks very like a fable._
                                                     _Pliny the Younger_

The history of the dolphin is one of the most fascinating and
instructive in the historiography and the history of ideas in the
western world. Indeed, it provides one of the most illuminating examples
of what has probably occurred many times in human culture—a virtually
complete loss of knowledge, at least in most segments of the culture, of
what was formerly well understood by generations of men. “Not in entire
forgetfulness” in some regions of the world, but certainly in “a sleep
and a forgetting” in the most sophisticated centers of the western

Dolphins are mammals. They belong in the order Cetacea, suborder
Odontoceti, family Delphinidae. Within the Delphinidae there are some
twenty-two genera and about fifty-five species. The count includes the
Killer Whale, the False Killer Whale, the White Whale, and the Pilot
Whale, all of which are true dolphins. There are two subfamilies, the
Delphinapterinae, consisting of the two genera _Monodon monocerus_, the
Narwhal, and _Delphinapterus leucas_, the White Whale or Beluga. These
two genera are distinguished by the fact that none of the neck vertebrae
are fused, whereas in all remaining genera, embraced in the subfamily
Delphininae, at least the first and second neck vertebrae are fused.

It was Aristotle in his _History of Animals_ (521b) who first classified
whales, porpoises, and dolphins as Cetacea,τὰ κήτη οῖον δελφις καὶ
φωκαὶνα καὶ φάλαινα. Aristotle’s account of the Cetacea was
astonishingly accurately written, and quite evidently from firsthand
knowledge of these animals.

While most dolphins are inhabitants of the seas, there are some that
live in rivers, and quite a few that are denizens of fresh-water rivers
removed many miles from the sea. With one exception the diet of dolphins
is principally fish. The one exception is _Sotalia teuszii_, which lives
in the Kamerun River, and is believed to feed exclusively on vegetable
matter. The Ting Ling dolphin (_Lipotes vexillifer_) lives in Ting Ling
Lake, six hundred miles up the Yang-tse-Kiang. Another dolphin, the Susu
or Ganges dolphin (_Platanista gangetica_) of Brahmapootra, the Ganges,
and the Indus, has lenseless eyes and is almost blind. The fresh-water
dolphins belong in the family Platanistidae.

It is of interest to note that, in connection with the vegetable feeding
habits of the Kamerun dolphin, Lycophron, in his _Alexandra_, makes his
dolphins feed on trees, and Ovid, in the _Metamorphoses_ (III, 1, 202),
describes a flood in which the dolphins take possession of the woods.
Nonnus Panopolitanus, in the _Dionysiaca_ (VI, 265-266), also describes
dolphins as feeding on trees.

The normal range of length of dolphins is from 5 to 14 feet; the larger
species, the whales, are considerably longer. Brain weight is between
1600 and 1700 grams in the familiar dolphins, and reaches 9200 grams and
more in the whales. The large brain is associated with what, all
observers familiar with these animals agree, is a quite considerable

Here we must pause to make a plea for the proper usage of common names.
The term “porpoise” refers to the small, beakless Delphinidae, which
have a triangular dorsal fin and spade-shaped teeth. The name “dolphin”
embraces all other members of the family, except the larger forms, which
are called whales. The porpoises mostly belong in the genus _Phocaena_,
the best known species of which, the Common Porpoise (_Phocaena
phocaena_), never reaches a length exceeding 6 feet and weighs 100 to
120 pounds. There are some six species. The finless black porpoise
constitutes the only other genus with a single species _Neomeris

All porpoises are dolphins. The Bottle-Nosed Dolphin, _Tursiops
truncatus_, is sometimes called a porpoise. This is incorrect.
_Tursiops_ is a true dolphin, and should not be called what it is not.

Here we shall be principally concerned with the Bottle-Nosed Dolphin and
with the Common Dolphin. The Bottle-Nosed Dolphin has a short,
well-defined snout two or three inches long, and is characterized by a
prominent fin in the middle of the back. Coloration is dark above and
light below. Gestation lasts some ten months, birth is monotocous, and
the young are suckled for about 18 months. The tail is delivered first,
and the infant, about three feet long and weighing about twenty-five
pounds, is immediately quite active, though much in need of the care of
its devoted mother. The infant will eventually grow to be between 11 and
12 feet in length, and weigh about 300 kilograms. _Tursiops_ has an
enormously wide range, being commonest along the Atlantic coast of
America, from Maine to Florida, and occurs in the Bay of Biscay, in the
Mediterranean Sea, and as far south as New Zealand.

The Common Dolphin, _Delphinus delphis_, is readily recognized by its
well-defined narrow beak and distinctive coloration. The beak is some 5
to 6 inches narrower and finer than in the Bottle-Nosed Dolphin, and is
sharply marked off by a deep V-shaped groove from the low reclining
forehead. The Common Dolphin reaches a length up to 8½ feet. Its range
of distribution is very wide, for it may be met in any temperate or warm
sea throughout the world, and occurs at times in vast schools.

Whether the dolphin of classical antiquity is _Delphinus_ or _Tursiops_
is not usually determinable, although each undoubtedly played its
independent role in the stories told of dolphins. From the recorded
evidence available to us it is clear that, except for the larger
species, the whales, all dolphins appear to be characterized by
playfulness and friendliness toward man. There are, however, differences
which appear to express themselves mostly in captivity. At least,
_Tursiops_ adjusts much better to captivity than does _Delphinus_. At
marine studios _Tursiops_ has established itself as a highly
intelligent, playful, and friendly performer. _Delphinus_, on the other
hand, while naturally all these things, in captivity tends to be timid
and not very playful.

The Common and Bottle-Nosed Dolphins are those best known to the western
world, but many of the traits which have recently been rediscovered
concerning these creatures have been well known to other peoples for
millennia. It is only a certain segment of the western world, its more
sophisticated representation, and particularly the learned world, which
dismissed as myths the tales told about dolphins in classical antiquity.
And this is the real burden of the story I have to tell you. Some of
these antique tales may have been myths, but as we shall see, many of
them were not, and undoubtedly a number of the myths were based on real
events partially embroidered by the imagination and improved, like good
wine, by time. But good wine needs no bush, and I shall sample this wine
as palatably as I find it.

The earliest representation of a dolphin I have been able to find is
from a pictographic seal from Crete, estimated to date from 3500 to 2200
B.C. The earliest _painting_ of a dolphin thus far recovered is from the
ancient Peloponnesian city of Tiryns. The date is about 1600 B.C. In
that city it is also represented in stucco floors. Several good examples
of dolphins are furnished by seventh century Corinthian art. The dolphin
is also well represented in Minoan art. In Cyprus it is frequently
represented in Late Helladic vases, shards, amphorae, in metalwork,
engravings, and in stucco floors as at Tiryns. Among the importations
from Crete into Helladic art appear to have been certain stylized forms
of the dolphin.

An early literary reference to the dolphin occurs in Aesop’s fable, “The
Monkey and the Dolphin.” During a violent storm a ship was capsized, and
among those thrown into the water was a monkey. Observing its distress a
dolphin came to its rescue, and taking the monkey upon its back the
dolphin headed for shore. Opposite Piraeus, the harbor of Athens, the
dolphin inquired of the monkey whether he was an Athenian. “Oh, yes,”
replied the monkey, “and from one of the best families.” “Then you know
Piraeus,” said the dolphin. “Very well, indeed,” said the monkey, “he is
one of my most intimate friends.” Whereupon, outraged by so gross a
deceit, the dolphin took a deep dive and left the monkey to its fate.

I take it that ever since that day monkeys have very sensibly refrained
from speech. It is far better to remain silent even at the risk of being
taken for a fool or a rogue, than to open one’s mouth and remove all

Aesop flourished about 600 B.C. His story suggests a considerable
knowledge of the ways of dolphins, and this indicates that knowledge of
the dolphin was already old in his time.

There are several variant Greek myths on the origin of the dolphin. All
of them relate to Dionysos. In one version Dionysos is an adult, in
another he is a child. The first group of legends represent the epiphany
of Dionysos, symbolizing the battle between winter and summer. Winter is
represented by the death of Dionysos who disappears into the water, from
which he is brought back on the top of a dolphin as the returning
springtime (Apollodorus, III, 5, 3). Another version has Dionysos,
whether as child or adult varies, being conveyed by ship to Naxos by
Tyrrhenian mariners. The latter conceive the idea of kidnaping him.
Dionysos senses their treachery, and bidding his companions strike up on
their musical instruments, he produces a Bacchic wild dance in the
mariners who throw themselves overboard and are changed into dolphins.

The popular belief in antiquity in the human intelligence of dolphins
and their kindly feeling toward man was explained by the ancient writers
in the light of the transformation of the Tyrrhenian pirates into
dolphins. (See Lucian, _Marine Dialogues_, 8; Oppian, _Halieutica_, I,
649-654, 1098, V, 422, 519f; Porphyry, _De Abstinentia_, III, 16.) As
Oppian (I, 1089) in his _Halieutica_ has it, in William Diaper’s
charming translation:

  So _Dolphins_ teem, whom subject Fish revere,
  And show the smiling Seas their Infant-Heir.
    All other Kinds, whom Parent-Seas confine,
  _Dolphins_ excell; that Race is all divine.
  _Dolphins_ were Men (Tradition hands the Tale)
  Laborious Swains bred on the _Tuscan_ Vale:
  Transform’d by _Bacchus_, and by _Neptune_ lov’d,
  They all the Pleasures of the Deep improv’d.
  When new-made Fish the God’s Command obey’d,
  Plung’d in the Waves, and untry’d Fins displayed,
  No further Change relenting _Bacchus_ wrought,
  Nor have the _Dolphins_ all the Man forgot;
  The conscious Soul retains her former Thought.

The god of the golden trident who rules over the seas, Poseidon, would
not have prospered in his wooing of Amphitrite if it had not been for
the assistance of a dolphin, who apprized Poseidon of her hiding-place.
For this service, as is well-known, Poseidon set the dolphin among the
stars in the constellation which bears its name to this day.

It is interesting in this connection that in a modern Greek folktale
from Zacynthos, Poseidon changes a hero who has fallen into the sea into
a dolphin until such time as he should find a maiden ready to be his
wife. After some time the dolphin rescues a shipwrecked king and his
daughter, the princess by way of reward takes him for her husband, and
the spell is broken (Bernhard Schmidt, _Das Volksleben der Neugriechen_,
p. 135).

The cult of Apollo Delphinus was initiated, so legend has it, by Icadius
who, leaving his native land of Lycia, which he had named for his
mother, set out for Italy. Shipwrecked on the way, he was taken on the
back of a dolphin, which set him down near Mount Parnassus, where he
founded a temple to his father Apollo, and called the place Delphi after
the dolphin. For this reason the dolphin became among the things most
sacred to Apollo (Servius, _Commentarii in Vergilii Aeneidos_, III, 332;
also Cornificius Longus, _De Etymis Deorum_).

Herodotos, writing of Periander (fl. 600 B.C.) tyrant of Corinth, tells
one of the most famous of all stories of the dolphin (it is mentioned by
Shakespeare in the first act of _Twelfth Night_). “In his time,” writes
Herodotos (b. 484 B.C.), “a very wonderful thing is said to have
happened. The Corinthians and the Lesbians agree in their account of the
matter. They relate that Arion of Methymna, who, as a player on the
lyre, was second to no man living at that time, and who was, so far as
we know, the first to invent the dithyrambic measure, to give it its
name, and to conduct in it at Corinth, was carried to Taenarum on the
back of a dolphin.

“He had lived, it is said, at the court of Periander, when a longing
came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having made rich
profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas to Corinth. He
therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were Corinthians, thinking
that there was no people in whom he could more safely confide; and,
going on board, he set sail from Tarentum. The sailors, however, when
they reached the open sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and
seize upon his riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees,
beseeching them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money.
But they refused; and required him either to kill himself outright, if
he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss of time to leap
overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged them, since such was
their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon the quarter-deck, dressed in
his full costume, and there to play and sing, and promising that, as
soon as his song was ended, he would destroy himself. Delighted at the
prospect of hearing the very best singer in the world, they consented,
and withdrew from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion
dressed himself in the full costume of his calling, took his lyre, and
standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian [a very high-pitched
lively and spirited song]. His strain ended, he flung himself, fully
attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Corinthians then sailed on
to Corinth. As for Arion, a dolphin, they say, took him upon his back
and carried him to Taenarum, where he went ashore, and thence proceeded
to Corinth in his musician’s dress, and told all that had happened to
him. Periander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward,
to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for the
return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them before him and
asked them if they could give him any tidings of Arion. They returned
for answer that he was alive and in good health in Italy, and that they
had left him at Tarentum, where he was doing well. Thereupon Arion
appeared before them, just as he was when he jumped from the vessel: the
men, astonished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their
guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians give; and
there is to this day at Taenarum an offering of Arion’s at the shrine,
which is a small figure in bronze, representing a man seated upon a
dolphin.” (_The History of Herodotus_, Clio, I, 23-24.)

Commenting on this tale the poet Bianor, in _The Greek Anthology_
(_Declamatory Epigrams_, 308), remarks, “So the sea presumably contains
fish whose righteousness exceeds that of mankind.”

Coins of Methymna, in Lesbos, Arion’s birthplace, show him riding a
dolphin. In one form or another the dolphin is represented on the coins
of some forty Greek cities, and doubtless most Greeks knew the reason

Pliny the Elder, in his _Natural History_ (IX, 8, 24-28), writes as

“The dolphin is an animal that is not only friendly to mankind but is
also a lover of music, and it can be charmed by singing in harmony, but
particularly by the sound of the water-organ. It is not afraid of a
human being as something strange to it, but comes to meet vessels at sea
and sports and gambols round them, actually trying to race them and
passing them even when under full sail. In the reign of the late
lamented Augustus a dolphin that had been brought into the Lucrine Lake
fell marvellously in love with a certain boy, a poor man’s son, who used
to go from the Baiae district to school at Pozzuoli, because fairly
often the lad when loitering about the place at noon called him to him
by the name of Snubnose and coaxed him with bits of the bread he had
with him for the journey,—I should be ashamed to tell the story were it
not that it has been written about by Maecenas and Fabianus and Flavius
Alfius and many others,—and when the boy called to it at whatever time
of day, although it was concealed in hiding, it used to fly to him out
of the depth, eat out of his hand, and let him mount on its back,
sheathing as it were the prickles of its fin, and used to carry him when
mounted right across the bay to Pozzuoli to school, bringing him back in
similar manner, for several years, until the boy died of disease, and
then it used to keep coming sorrowfully and like a mourner to the
customary place, and itself also expired, quite undoubtedly from
longing. Another dolphin in recent years at Hippo Diarrhytus on the
coast of Africa similarly used to feed out of people’s hands and allow
itself to be stroked, and play with swimmers and carry them on its back.
The Governor of Africa, Flavianus, smeared it all over with perfume, and
the novelty of the scent apparently put it to sleep: it floated
lifelessly about, holding aloof from human intercourse for some months
as if it had been driven away by insult; but afterwards it returned and
was an object of wonder as before. The expense caused to their hosts by
persons of official position who came to see it forced the people of
Hippo to destroy it. Before these occurrences a similar story is told
about a boy in the city of Iasus, with whom a dolphin was observed for a
long time to be in love, and while eagerly following him to the shore
when he was going away it grounded on the sand and expired; Alexander
the Great made the boy head of the priesthood of Poseidon at Babylon,
interpreting the dolphin’s affection as a sign of the deity’s favour.
Hegesidemus writes that in the same city of Iasus another boy also,
named Hermias, while riding across the sea in the same manner lost his
life in the waves of a sudden storm, but was brought back to the shore,
and the dolphin confessing itself the cause of his death did not return
out to sea and expired on dry land. Theophrastus records that exactly
the same thing occurred at Naupactos too. Indeed there are unlimited
instances: the people of Amphilocus and Taranto tell the same stories
about boys and dolphins; and these make it credible that also the
skilled harper Arion, when at sea the sailors were getting ready to kill
him with the intention of stealing the money he had made, succeeded in
coaxing them to let him first play a turn on his harp, and the music
attracted a school of dolphins, whereupon he dived into the sea and was
taken up by one of them and carried ashore at Cape Matapan.”

A very similar but apparently quite independent account of these stories
is given by the younger Pliny, in his _Letters_ (IX, 23).

The elder Pliny then goes on to tell of the manner in which dolphins
assist fishermen, which corresponds closely with the accounts given by
recent observers of this cooperative activity between fishermen and
dolphins. (For accounts of these see Antony Alpers, _Dolphins_, 146 sq.)

There are numerous other stories similar to those given by the Plinys
from classical antiquity, but it is quite impossible to recount them
here.[1] What they all have in common is the friendliness of the dolphin
for human beings, their rescue of them when they were thrown into the
sea, their playfulness, especially with children, and their interest in
almost any sort of sound. All these traits came to be regarded as
mythical by later and more sophisticated ages, and Usener (_Die
Sintfluthsagen_) comments on the effect that the prevalence of these
tales had even upon the scientific thought of antiquity, making it
difficult for such thinkers as Aristotle to get away from the belief in
the dolphin’s ability to carry a rider, and in its capacity for human
feeling (Aristotle, _History of Animals_, 631a). But Aristotle was right
and Herr Usener wrong. The delightful thing about most of these myths is
that they all appear to be based on solid fact, and not on the fancies
attributed to the original narrators. Another typical modern gloss by a
highly sophisticated writer, biologically not unknowledgeable, Norman
Douglas, is the following: Commenting on the delphic mythology, he
writes, “From these and many other sources, we may gather that there was
supposed to exist an obscure but powerful bond of affection between this
animal and humanity, and that it was endowed with a certain
kindheartedness and man-loving propensity. This is obviously not the
case; the dolphin cares no more about us than cares the haddock. What is
the origin of this belief? I conjecture that the beast was credited with
these social sentiments out of what may be called poetic reciprocation.
Mankind, loving the merry gambols and other endearing characteristics of
the dolphin, which has a playful trick of escorting vessels for its own
amusement, whose presence signified fair weather, and whose parental
attachment to its offspring won their esteem—quite apart from its
fabled, perhaps real, love of music or at least of noisy sounds—were
pleased to invest it with feelings akin to their own. They were fond of
the dolphin; what more natural and becoming than that the dolphin should
be fond of them?” (_Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology_, p. 161.)

But Douglas was undisillusionedly wrong, and the dolphins are right, and
so is the “mankind” that believed in their friendliness. Though pleased
to see the dolphins play, it is to be regretted that Douglas did not
mind his compass and his way, for:

  Had the curteous Dolphins heard
  One note of his, they would have dar’d
  To quit the waters, to enjoy
  In banishment such melody.
                                                        John Hall, 1646.

In order to avoid any imputation that I may be attempting to play
Euhemerus[2] to the dolphin’s tale, the facts may be allowed to speak
for themselves—always remembering that facts never speak for themselves,
but are at the mercy of their interpreters. All, then, that I am
concerned to show here, by citing the contemporary evidence, is that, in
essence, the so-called myths of the ancients were based on solid facts
of observation and not, as has hitherto been supposed, on the imaginings
of mythmakers.

Let us begin with a brief account of the most recent and most thoroughly
documented story of a free-dwelling dolphin’s social interaction with
human beings. This is the story of Opo, a female _Tursiops_ that made
its appearance early in 1955 at Opononi, a small township just outside
the mouth of Hokianga Harbour, on the western side of the North Island
of New Zealand. From allowing itself at first to be rubbed with an oar
or mop carried on the fishermen’s launches, it began to glide in near
the beach among the bathers. The cheerful _putt-putt_ of a motor-launch
or of an outboard motor was an irresistible attraction for Opo, and she
would follow the boat like a dog, playing or cruising round it. If she
had an urge to wander, starting up the motor would invariably draw her
back again. Mr. Piwai Toi, a Maori farmer, who was the first to observe
Opo, writes, “She was really and truly a children’s playmate. Although
she played with grownups she was really at her charming best with a
crowd of children swimming and wading. I have seen her swimming amongst
children almost begging to be petted. She had an uncanny knack of
finding out those who were gentle among her young admirers, and keeping
away from the rougher elements. If they were all gentle then she would
give of her best.” (Antony Alpers, _The Dolphin_, pp. 228-229.)

The child the dolphin favored was a thirteen-year-old girl named Jill
Baker. At fourteen Jill wrote the following account of her experience
with Opo:

“I think why the dolphin became so friendly with me was because I was
always gentle with her and never rushed at her as so many bathers did.
No matter how many went in the water playing with her, as soon as I went
in for a swim she would leave all the others and go off side-by-side
with me. I remember on one occasion I went for a swim much further up
the beach than where she was playing, and I was only in the water a
short while when she bobbed up just in front of my face and gave me such
a fright. On several other occasions when I was standing in the water
with my legs apart she would go between them and pick me up and carry me
a short distance before dropping me again. At first she didn’t like the
feel of my hands and would dart away, but after a while when she
realized I would not harm her she would come up to me to be rubbed and
patted. She would quite often let me put little children on her back for
a moment or two.” (In Antony Alpers, _The Dolphin_, p. 229.)

Opo’s choice of the gentle Jill Baker for the rides which she gave this
thirteen-year-old, suggests not only a sensitive discrimination of the
qualities of human beings, but also that the reports of similar
incidents which have come down to us from antiquity were based on
similarly observed events. The one element in these stories which seemed
most difficult to accept, and which is so often represented in ancient
art, the boy riding on the back of a dolphin, is now removed from the
realm of fancy and placed squarely in the realm of fact. It has been
corroborated and sustained.

Mr. Antony Alpers in his book on the dolphin, and especially that part
devoted to the eyewitness accounts of Opo’s behavior, goes far toward
establishing the fact of the dolphin’s remarkable capacity for rapport
with human beings. But for those striking facts I must recommend you to
Mr. Alper’s charming book.

The dolphin’s extraordinary interest in and, what we will I am sure not
be far wrong in interpreting as, concern for human beings, is
dramatically told by George Llano in his report _Airmen Against the
Sea_. This report, written on survival at sea during the Second World
War, records the experience of six American airmen, shot down over the
Pacific, who found themselves in a seven-man raft being pushed by a
porpoise toward land. Unfortunately the land was an island held by the
Japanese. The friendly porpoise must have been surprised and hurt when
he found himself being dissuaded from his pushing by being beaten off
with the oars of the airmen.

Dr. Llano also reports that “Most observers noted that when porpoises
appeared sharks disappeared, and they frequently refer to the ‘welcome’
appearance of porpoises, whose company they preferred to that of
sharks.” This confirms all earlier reports that sharks are no match for
the dolphin kind.

Dolphins have been known to push a mattress quite empty of human beings
for considerable distances at sea. Possibly it is merely the pushing
that interests them, and not the saving of any human beings that might
be atop of them.

Is there any evidence that dolphins save drowning swimmers? There is.

In 1945 the wife of a well-known trial attorney residing in Florida was
saved from drowning by a dolphin.[3] This woman had stepped into a sea
with a strong undertow and was immediately dragged under. Just before
losing consciousness, she remembers hoping that someone would push her
ashore. “With that, someone gave me a tremendous shove, and I landed on
the beach, face down, too exhausted to turn over ... when I did, no one
was near, but in the water almost eighteen feet out a porpoise was
leaping around, and a few feet beyond him another large fish was also

In this case the porpoise was almost certainly a dolphin and the large
fish a fishtail shark. A man who had observed the events from the other
side of a fence told the rescued woman that this was the second time he
had seen a drowning person saved by a “porpoise.”

More recently, on the night of February 29, 1960, Mrs. Yvonne M. Bliss
of Stuart fell from a boat off the east coast of Grand Bahama Island in
the West Indies.[4] “After floating, swimming, shedding more clothing
for what seemed an eternity, I saw a form in the water to the left of
me.... It touched the side of my hip and, thinking it must be a shark, I
moved over to the right to try to get away from it.... This change in my
position was to my advantage as heretofore I was bucking a cross tide
and the waves would wash over my head and I would swallow a great deal
of water. This sea animal which I knew by this time must be a porpoise
had guided me so that I was being carried with the tide.

“After another eternity and being thankful that my friend was keeping
away the sharks and barracuda for which these waters are famous, the
porpoise moved back of me and came around to my right side. I moved over
to give room to my companion and later knew that had not the porpoise
done this, I would have been going downstream to deeper and faster
moving waters. The porpoise had guided me to the section where the water
was the most shallow.

“Shortly I touched what felt like fish netting to my feet. It was
seaweed and under that the glorious and most welcome bottom.

“As I turned toward shore, stumbling, losing balance, and saying a
prayer of thanks, my rescuer took off like a streak on down the

The reader must be left to make what he can of such occurrences. Dr.
George G. Goodwin of the American Museum of Natural History doubts the
intention of dolphins to save drowning persons.[5] “Anything floating,”
he writes, “on or near the surface of the sea will attract his
attention. His first action on approaching the object of his curiosity
is to roll under it. In doing so, something partly submerged, like the
body of a drowning person, is nudged to the surface of the water. The
sea does its part and automatically drives floating objects toward the
beach.” This may well be so in some cases, but it is an explanation
which does not fit the incidents described by Mrs. Bliss, in which she
was not pushed but guided. Occam’s razor should not be too bluntly

The cooperativeness of dolphins with fishermen in various parts of the
world has gone on for several thousand years without its significance
having registered much upon the consciousness of the rest of the
world—including the learned and the scientific.

In the Mediterranean from the earliest days, as recorded by Aelian in
his _On the Characteristics of Animals_, VI, 15, to the present day,
torchlight fishing with the aid of dolphins has been a traditional way
of fishing. This has been described by Nicholas Apostolides in his book
_La Pêche en Grèce_, who tells how fishermen of the Sporades catch their
garfish “in the darkest nights of the month of October” by methods very
similar to those described by Aelian. Briefly, the fish attracted by the
fishermen’s flares begin to collect, whereupon the dolphins appear and
drive them into the fishermen’s nets.

Similar methods of fishing were practiced in the Antipodes, off the New
Zealand and Queensland coasts. The aborigines of Moreton Bay,
Queensland, used to catch mullet with the aid of dolphins, at a place
appropriately enough called Amity Point. The aborigines recognized
individual dolphins and called them by name. With their nets ready on
the beach the aborigines waited for a shoal of fish to appear, whereupon
they would run down and make a peculiar splashing in the water with
their spears, and the dolphins on the outside of the shoal would drive
the fish towards the nets for the aborigines to catch. Fairholme, who
described these events in 1856, writes, “For my part I cannot doubt that
the understanding is real, and that the natives know these porpoises
[actually the dolphin _Tursiops catalania_], and that strange porpoises
would not show so little fear of the natives. The oldest men of the
tribe say that the same kind of fishing has always been carried on as
long as they can remember. Porpoises abound in the bay, but in no other
part do the natives fish with their assistance.”

The Irrawaddy River dolphin is also an assistant-fisherman. John
Anderson reports that “The fishermen believe that the dolphin purposely
draws fish to their nets, and each fishing village has its particular
guardian dolphin which receives a name common to all the fellows of his
school; and it is this superstition which makes it so difficult to
obtain specimens of this Cetacean. Colonel Sladen has told me that suits
are not infrequently brought into the native courts to recover a share
in the capture of fish, in which a plaintiff’s dolphin has been held to
fill the nets of rival fishermen.” (John Anderson, _Account of the
Zoological Results of Two Expeditions to Western Yunnan_.)

The Pink-Bellied river dolphin (_Inia geoffrensis_) of the Trapajós, a
tributary of the Amazon, also helps its human friends with fishing. Dr.
F. Bruce Lamb[6] says that this dolphin, locally known as the _boto_,
“is reported to have saved the lives of helpless persons whose boats
have capsized, by pushing them ashore. None of the dreaded flesh-eating
_piranhas_ appear when a porpoise is present, for they themselves would
be eaten.” And he goes on to give an eye-witness account of fishing with
the aid of a trained dolphin. “My curiosity was aroused,” he writes, “by
the paddler, who began tapping on the side of the canoe with his paddle
between strokes and whistling a peculiar call. Asking Rymundo about
this, he startled me by casually remarking that they were calling their
_boto_, their porpoise.... As we approached the fishing grounds near the
riverbank, Rymundo lit his carbide miner’s lamp, adjusted the reflector,
chose his first harpoon, and stood up in the bow ready for action.
Almost immediately on the offshore side of the canoe about 50 feet from
us we heard a porpoise come up to blow and take in fresh air.” The
porpoise then chased the fish toward the canoe and Rymundo harpooned
them with ease.

Many ancient writers have referred to the brilliancy of the changeful
colors when the dolphin is dying. Byron makes reference to this in
“Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,”

                “Parting day
  Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
  With a new colour as it gasps away;
  The last still loveliest, till ’tis gone, and
                all is gray.”

Here is a peculiar confusion, for this is not the mammalian dolphin of
which we have been speaking, but the swift piscivorous oceanic fish
_Coryphaena hippurus_, the dolphin of sailors. It is blue with deeper
spots, and gleaming with gold. It is, indeed, famous for the beauty of
its changing colors when dying. The mammalian dolphin exhibits no such
spectacular color changes when dying.

Happily, it is not with dying dolphins or with _their_ changing colors
that we are concerned here, but rather with ours, the changing color of
the complexion of our once too sophisticated beliefs. Beliefs which, in
their own way, were very much more in the nature of myths than the
ancient ones which we wrote off a little too disdainfully as such. The
history of the dolphin constitutes an illuminating example of the
eclipse of knowledge once possessed by the learned, but which was
virtually completely relegated to the outermost fringes of mythology
during the last eighteen hundred years. Perhaps there is a moral to be
drawn here. If so, I shall leave it to others to draw. But now that
scientific interest in the dolphin has been aroused we are entering into
a new era of delphinology, and with the confirmation of so many of the
observations of the ancients already made, we may look forward with
confidence to others. Dolphins have large brains; possibly they will
some day be able to teach us what brains are really for.

                              _Appendix A_
                        A Note for Bibliophiles

It was an ancient belief, as Camerarius tells us, that “when tempests
arise, and seamen cast their anchor, the dolphin, from its love to man,
twines itself round it, so that it may more safely lay hold of the
ground.” I know of no verifying evidence for this statement, but should
not be surprised to find some element of truth in it. The dolphin twined
about an anchor is the device which Aldus Manutius (1450-1515) adopted
for his Aldine Press, which began publication in 1494. This device was
later adapted to his own use by the English publisher William Pickering

The representation of the dolphin twined about the anchor refers to no
maritime supremacy of that creature, but rather to its kindly regard for
man. The following poem in George Wither’s _A Collection of Emblemes_
(1635), throws some additional light on the meaning of the emblem.

  If Safely, thou desire to goe,
  Bee nor too Swift, nor overslow.
      [Dolphin and Anchor]
        Illvstr.X. Book 2.

  Our Elders, when their meaning was to shew
    A native-speedinesse (in Emblem wise)
    The picture of a Dolphin-Fish they drew;
  Which, through the waters, with great swiftnesse, flies.
  An Anchor, they did figure, to declare
  Hope, stayednesse, or a grave-deliberation:
  And therefore when those two, united are,
  Its giveth us a two-fold Intimation.
  For, as the Dolphin putteth us in minde,
  That in the Courses, which we have to make,
  Wee should not be, to slothfulnesse enclin’d;
  But, swift to follow what we undertake:
  So, by an Anchor added thereunto,
  Inform’d wee are, that, to maintaine our speed,
  Hope, must bee joyn’d therewith (in all we doe)
  If wee will undiscouraged proceed.
  It sheweth (also) that, our speedinesse,
  Must have some staydnesse; lest, when wee suppose
  To prosecute our aymes with good successe,
  Wee may, by Rashnesse, good endeavors lose.
    They worke, with most securitie, that know
  The Times, and best Occasions of delay;
  When, likewise, to be neither swift, nor slow;
  And, when to practise all the speed, they may.
  For, whether calme, or stormie-passages,
  (Through this life’s Ocean) shall their Bark attend;
  This double Vertue, will procure their ease:
  And, them, in all necessities, befriend.
    By Speedinesse, our works are timely wrought;
    By Staydnesse, they, to passe are, safely, brought.
 _From_ A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne, by George Wither.
                                            London, 1635. Book 2, p. 72.

                              _Appendix B_
                    Dolphins and Their Distribution

  Order: CETACEA
  Suborder: ODONTOCETI
  Family: Delphinidae
  Subfamily: Delphininae
  Genus: _Delphinus_
  Subfamily: Delphinapterinae
  Genus: _Monodon_
  Genus: _Delphinapterus_

The Suborder Odontoceti of the Order Cetacea consists of the toothed
whales, in contrast to the toothless whalebone or baleen whales, the
Mystacoceti. The whales are large dolphins or one may say that dolphins
are small whales. The members of the Odontoceti are the Dolphin,
Freshwater Dolphin, Porpoise, Sperm Whale or Cachalot, Lesser Sperm
Whale, Bottle-Nose Whale, Narwhal or Sea-Unicorn, White Whale, Pilot
Whale or Black-Fish, Killer Whale or Grampus.

_Delphinus delphis_: The Common Dolphin. It is easily recognized by its
well-defined narrow beak and distinctive coloration, being darker above
than below. There is a narrow beak, which is sharply marked off from the
low reclining forehead by a V-shaped groove. A length of up to 8½ feet
has been recorded. Range of distribution is very wide. May be met in any
temperate or warm sea throughout the world, and occurs at times in vast

_Delphinus roseiventris_: The Red-Bellied Dolphin. Moluccas and Torres
Straits, Australia; 3 feet 10 inches.

_Prodelphinus attenuatus_: Tropical and sub-tropical parts of Atlantic
Ocean; 6 feet.

_P. plagiodon_: Atlantic coast of North America from Cape Hatteras, Gulf
of Mexico; 7 feet.

_P. froenatus_: The Bridled Dolphin. Atlantic and Indian Oceans; about 6

_P. malayanus_: East Indies; more than 6 feet.

_P. coeruleoalbus_: South America, near mouth of River Plate; about 4

_P. euphrosyne_: Atlantic Ocean to South Africa; about 8 feet.

Genus _Tursiops_

_T. truncatus_: The Bottle-Nosed Dolphin. Has a short well-defined snout
2 or 3 inches long. There is a prominent fin in the middle of the back.
Reaches a length of 11 to 12 feet. Has a very wide range. Commonest
along the Atlantic coast of America from Maine to Florida. Found in Bay
of Biscay, in the Mediterranean Sea, and in New Zealand waters.

_T. abusalam_: Red Sea; 6 feet.

_T. catalania_: Indian and Australian seas.

Genus _Steno_

_S. rostratus_: The Rough-Toothed Dolphin. Long-beaked, with roughened
or furrowed teeth. Atlantic and Indian Oceans; about 8 feet.

Genus _Orcaella_

_O. brevirostris_: Irrawaddy River Dolphin. From Bay of Bengal,
Vizagapatam, Singapore, and Siam (i.e., S.E. Asia).

Genus _Lissodelphis_ or _Tursio_

_Lissodelphis_: The Right Whale Dolphin. All oceans.

Genus _Grampus_

_G. griseus_: Risso’s Dolphin. North Atlantic, Mediterranean, New
Zealand, and Cape of Good Hope; 12 to 13 feet.

Genus _Cephalorhynchus_

These are the Southern, mostly cold-water dolphins.

_C. heavisidei_: Heaviside’s Dolphin. Cape of Good Hope; about 4 feet.

_C. hectori_: Hector’s Dolphin. New Zealand; about 6 feet.

_C. albiventris_: White-Bellied Dolphin. A very rare form, found off the
coast of South America; about 4 feet 6 inches.

_C. commersonii_: Commerson’s Dolphin; also known as the Piebald
Porpoise or Le Jacobite. Southern oceans; up to 5¼ feet.

Genus _Lagenorhynchus_

Characterized by great number of vertebrae (80 to 90), great length of
transverse and vertical bony processes from vertebrae, moderately
pointed high back fin having concave posterior border; the beak is

_L. acutus_: The White-Sided Dolphin. North Atlantic; about 9 feet.

_L. australis_: Peale’s Porpoise. Cape Horn, Chile, Patagonia, Falkland
Islands; over 7 feet.

_L. albirostris_: The White-Beaked Dolphin. North Atlantic; 9 to 10

_L. cruciger_: South Pacific; 5 to 6 feet.

_L. fitzroyi_: Fitzroy’s Dolphin. Southern end of South America; 5 feet
4 inches.

_L. obscurus_: Dusky Dolphin. South Africa, New Zealand, Falkland
Islands; 7 feet.

Genus _Sotalia_

Concentrated in the tropical seas or rivers of South America, Africa,
India, and the Far East.

_S. pallida_: Buffeo blanco. Upper Amazon; 5 feet 6 inches.

_S. fluviatalis_: Buffeo negro. Upper Amazon; 3 feet 7 inches.

_S. tucuxi_: Upper Amazon.

_S. guianensis_: N. E. coast of South America.

_S. teuszii_: Noteworthy as being the one Cetacean believed to feed
exclusively on vegetable matter. Kamerun River.

_S. gadamu_: Vizagapatam; averages 7 feet; snout 6 inches.

_S. lentigiosa_: Vizagapatam.

_S. plumbea_: Malabar coast of India; about 8 feet; very long snout.

_S. borneensis_: Gulf of Siam to Sarawak in Borneo.

_S. sinesis_: Chinese White Dolphin.

The Fresh Water Dolphins.

Genus _Platanista_

_P. gangetica_: The Susu or Gangetic Dolphin; about 8 feet; snout and
beak drawn into long forceps-like beak, 7 or 8 inches long; confined to
River Ganges and River Indus. It is almost blind.

Genus _Inia_

_I. geoffrensis_: Amazonian Dolphin or Boutu. Upper Amazon; 7 feet; long

Genus _Pontoporia_

_P. blainvillei_: La Plata Dolphin. Estuary of Rio de la Plata; about 5

Genus _Lipotes_

_L. vexillifer_: Chinese River Dolphin. Ting Ling Lake, 600 miles up the
Yang-tse River; 7 feet 6 inches; slightly upcurved jaws.

The Porpoise

The small beakless Delphinidae, which have a triangular dorsal fin and
spade-shaped teeth, black above and white below; travels in large
schools. The word “porpoise” is derived from the French _porc-poisson_,
“pig-fish.” Never larger than 6 feet.

Genus _Phocaena_

_P. phocaena_: The Common Porpoise. Chiefly North Atlantic and North
Pacific; never larger than 6 feet.

_P. spinipinnis_: Burmeister’s Porpoise. Rare. La Plata round Horn to

_P. dalli_: Dall’s Harbor Porpoise. Very rare. Alaska; less than 5 feet.

_P. truei_: True’s Porpoise. Japan; less than 5 feet.

_P. dioprica_: River Plate to South Georgia.

Genus _Neomeris_

_N. phocaenoides_: Finless Black Porpoise. Cape of Good Hope to Japan.

Genus _Lissodelphis_

_L. peronii_: New Zealand and Tasmania; about 6 feet.

_L. brealis_: North Pacific; about 8 feet.

The Right Whale Dolphins

The Whales with Teeth

The toothed whales are big dolphins, and are on the average much smaller
than the Whalebone or Baleen toothless Whales.

Family Physeteridae

Subfamily Physeterinae

Genus _Physeter_

_P. catodon_: The Sperm Whale or Cachalot. All oceans. Male may reach 60
feet, the female usually half the length of the male. This is the whale
that has suffered the relentless persecution of whalers, always a
coveted prize on account of its spermaceti-permeated blubber, and its
excretory ambergris. The most dangerous of whales.

Subfamily Kogiinae

Genus _Kogia_

_K. breviceps_: The Pigmy or Lesser Sperm Whale. Atlantic, Pacific,
Indian, and Antarctic oceans; about 10 feet.

Family Ziphiidae

Genus: _Hyperoödon rostratus_: The Bottle-Nose Whale. North Atlantic,
Mediterranean, South Pacific, and Antarctic; 20 to 30 feet.

Genus: _Mesoplodon_: “The Cow Fish;” Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian

Genus: _Ziphius_: The Two-Toothed Whale. All oceans.

Genus: _Tasmacetus_: South Pacific.

Genus: _Berardius_: Pacific.

Family Monodontidae or Delphinapteridae

Subfamily Delphinapterinae

Genus: _Monodon monocerus_: Narwhal or Sea Unicorn. Arctic seas south of
the ice-field. The male is characterized by an immense tusk, sometimes 9
feet long, projecting like a spear from the left side of the
bluntly-rounded muzzle. The tusk is spirally grooved, and is the source
of the horn of the unicorn of heraldry. Mottled in color, and about 18
feet long.

Genus: _Delphinapterus leucas_: The White Whale or Beluga. Resembles the
Narwhal in size, shape, and habitat, but the tusk is absent.

Family Delphinidae

Genus _Globiocephala_

_G. melas_: Pilot Whale or Black-Fish or Ca’ing Whale. Temperate or
tropical seas. Rounded head with dorsal fin. Takes its name from the
fact that one whale or pilot leads the way of the sometimes huge
schools; about 25 feet.

Genus _Orcinus_

_O. orca_: Killer Whale or Grampus. All seas. With a high dorsal fin and
black and white coloring, aggressively bold and carnivorous, with
singular cunning and intelligence. Fourteen seals and thirteen porpoises
have been found in the stomach of a male measuring 21 feet. The male is
usually about 30 feet in length.

Genus _Pseudorca_

_P. crassidens_: The False Killer Whale or Lesser Killer Whale. All


[1]Among the many well-known figures of classical mythology said to have
    been saved by dolphins from the sea are Eikadios, Enalos, Koiranos,
    Phalanthos, Taras, etc. In many other cases the corpses were brought
    ashore by a dolphin, which then expired on reaching land (similarly,
    with minor variations, was this so with Palaimon or Melikertes,
    Dionysios and Hermias of Iasos, Hesiod, and the boys already
    referred to from Baiae and Naupaktos). Similar incidents reappear in
    the writings of the hagiographers. Saints Martinianos of Kaisareia,
    Kallistratos of Carthage, Basileios the younger of Constantinople,
    were each saved from a watery grave by a couple of dolphins. The
    corpse of Saint Loukianos of Antioch was brought ashore by a large
    dolphin, which then expired on the sand. See Klement, _Arion_, 1-64,
    and Usener, _Die Sintfluthsagen_, 138-180.

[2]Euhemerus (_circa_ second half of the fourth century B.C.) attempted
    a rationalistic explanation of the mythology prevailing in his time.
    The theory he propounded, in his novel of travel, _Sacred History_,
    was simply an extension of the current skeptical-scientific attitude
    to matters which until that time had been accepted without question.
    That theory was that the gods were merely men who because of their
    great exploits or beneficence had been accorded divine honors. In
    Crete, coming upon the remains of a tomb bearing the name of Zeus,
    Euhemerus argued that even Zeus had probably been no more than a
    great conqueror, who died and was buried in Crete, and afterwards
    deified. This creditable anthropological attempt to historicize
    mythology, though it failed to convince, is nevertheless worthy of
    great respect. As A. B. Cook wrote, if Euhemerus said that Zeus was
    a Cretan king when he ought to have said that Cretan kings played
    the part of Zeus, it is a pardonable error. (_Zeus_, I, 662.)

[3]“Saved by a Porpoise,” _Natural History_, LVIII (1949), 385-386.

[4]Winthrop N. Kellogg, _Porpoises and Sonar_, University of Chicago
    Press, 1962, p. 14.

[5]George G. Goodwin, “Porpoise—Friend of Man?” _Natural History_, LVI
    (1947), 337.

[6]F. Bruce Lamb, “The Fisherman’s Porpoise,” _Natural History_, LXIII
    (1954), 231-2.


  Aelian. _On the Characteristics of Animals._ Bk. VI, 15.
  Aesop. _Fables._ “The Monkey and the Dolphin.”
  Alpers, Antony. _Dolphins: the Myth and the Mammal._ Boston: Houghton
          Mifflin, 1961.
  Anderson, John. _Anatomical and Zoological Researches: Comprising an
          Account of the Zoological Results of the Two Expeditions to
          Western Yunnan._ London: Bernard Quaritch, 1878.
  Apollodorus. _The Library._ III, 5, 3.
  Apostolides, Nicholas. _La Pêche en Grèce._ Athens, 1907.
  Aristotle. _History of Animals._ Bk. I, 5; II, 1, 13, 15; III, 1, 7,
          20; IV, 8-10; V, 5; VI, 12; VIII, 2, 13; IX, 48.
  Biedermann, Paul. _Der Delphin in der dichtenden und bildenden
          Phantasie der Griechen und Roemer._ Halle, 1881.
  Cook, Arthur B. _Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion._ Cambridge, Eng.:
          The University Press, 1914, vol. 1, p. 662.
  Douglas, Norman. _Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology._ London:
          Chapman and Hall, 1928, p. 161.
  Euhemerus. _Sacred History._
  Fairholme, J. K. E. “The Blacks of Moreton Bay, and the Porpoises,”
          _Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London_, XXIV
          (1856), 353-354.
  Goodwin, George G. “Porpoise—Friend of Man?” _Natural History_, LVI
          (1947), 337.
  _The Greek Anthology._
  Herodotos. _History._ Clio I, 23-24.
  Hill, Ralph N. _Window in the Sea._ New York: Rinehart, 1956.
  Kellogg, Winthrop N. _Porpoises and Sonar._ Chicago: University of
          Chicago Press, 1961.
  Klement, Carl. _Arion._ Vienna, 1898.
  Lamb, F. Bruce. “The Fisherman’s Porpoise,” _Natural History_, LXIII
          (1954), 231-232.
  Llano, George A. _Airmen Against the Sea._ Maxwell Air Force Base,
          Alabama; Arctic, Desert, Tropic Information Center [1955 or
          1956], p. 74.
  Longman, Heber. “New Records of Cetacea,” _Memoirs of the Queensland
          Museum_, VIII (1926), 266-278.
  Longus, Cornificius. _De Etymis Deorum._
  Lucian. _Marine Dialogues._ 8.
  Lycophron. _Alexandra._
  Nonnus Panopolitanus. _Dionysiaca._ VI, 265-266.
  Norman, John R., and Fraser, F. C. _Giant Fishes, Whales, and
          Dolphins._ London: Putnam, 1937.
  Oppian. _Halieutica._ I, 649-654, 1089; V, 422, 519f.
  Ovid. _Metamorphoses._ III, 1, 202.
  Pliny the Elder. _Natural History._ IX, 8, 24-28.
  Pliny the Younger. _Letters._ IX, 23.
  Plutarch. _On the Cleverness of Animals._
  Porphyry. _De Abstinentia._ III, 16.
  Rabinovitch, Melitta. _Der Delphin in Sage und Mythos der Griechen._
          Dornach: Hybernia-Verlag, 1947.
  “Saved by a Porpoise,” _Natural History_, LVIII (1949), 385-386.
  Schmidt, Bernhard. _Das Volksleben der Neugriechen._ Leipzig, 1871.
  Servius. _Commentarii in Vergilii Aeneidos._ III, 332.
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          and Rome._ Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta Publishing Co., 1929.
  Usener, Hermann. _Die Sintfluthsagen._ Bonn: F. Cohen, 1899.
  Xenophon. _Anabasis._ V, 4, 28.

     _Modern Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, as Challenges to Our

                            By JOHN C. LILLY

The intelligence of whales has been the subject of speculation by
writers since Ancient Greece.[1][2] The discovery of the large brains of
the Cetacea in the eighteenth century led to inevitable comparisons of
these brains to those of the humans and of the lower primates. The winds
of scholarly opinions concerning the whales have anciently blown
strongly for high intelligence but during later centuries shifted
strongly against high intelligence. At the time of Aristotle (384-322
B.C.) the dolphin, for example, was held in high esteem, and many
stories of the apparently great abilities of these animals were
current.[2] By the time of Plinius Secundus (A.D. 23-79) the beginning
of a note of skepticism was introduced. Plinius said, “I should be
ashamed to tell the story were it not that it has been written about by
... others.”[1]

In the middle ages the strong influence of religious philosophy on
thinking placed Man in a completely separate compartment from all other
living creatures, and the accurate anatomy of the whales was neglected.
This point is illustrated by Figure 1, published in the 1500’s in
_Historia Animalium_ by Konrad Gesner. This was apparently a baleen
whale. It has two tubes which apparently symbolize the double blowhole
of the Mystacocetae. There is no modern whale known that has such tubes
sticking out of the top of his head. There is a huge eye above the angle
of the jaw. All whales have the eye at or near the posterior angle of
the jaw. The eye is very much smaller than the one shown here. A print
published in 1598 of the anatomy of these animals is shown in Figure 2.
The drawing of the male organ is accurate (apparently it was measured
with a walking stick), but the eye is too large and is misplaced.

These pictures illustrate very well man’s most common relationship to
the whale, which has continued to the present day. For commercial
reasons man continues to exploit these creatures’ bodies.

It was not until the anatomical work of Vesalius and others that the
biological similarities and differences of man and other mammals were
pointed out. It was at this time that the investigation of man’s large
and complex brain began.

All through these periods intelligence and the biological brain factors
seemed to be completely separated in the minds of the scholars. At the
times of the Greeks and the Romans there was little, if any, link made
between brain and mind. Scholars attributed man’s special achievements
to other factors than excellence of brain structure and its use.

After the discovery of man’s complicated and complex brain and the
clinical correlation between brain injury and effects on man’s
performance, the brain and mental factors began to be related to one
another. As descriptions of man’s brain became more and more exact and
clinical correlations increased sufficiently in numbers, new
investigations on the relationships between brain size and intelligence
in _Homo sapiens_ were started. The early work is summarized by

In the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s the expansion of the whaling
industry offered many opportunities for examination of these interesting
mammals. Figures 3 and 4 are dramatic examples of the state of the
industry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

One of the earliest drawings of the complex brain of one of the cetacea
is that of Gottfried Reinhold Trediramus in 1818 (Fig. 5). This is an
anterior view of the brain of the common porpoise _Phocaena phocaena_.
This is one of the earliest pictures showing the complexity of the
fissuration and the large numbers of gyri and sulci.

By the year 1843 the size of the brain of whales was being related to
the total size of the body. The very large brains of the large whales
were reduced in importance by considering their weight in a ratio to the
weight of the total body. This type of reasoning was culminated with a
long series of quantitative measures published by Eugène Dubois
(_Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris_, Ser. 4, VIII
[1897], 337-376).

Descriptions from those of Hunter and Tyson onwards agree that, in
absolute size, the brains are as large and larger than those of man. All
were agreed that the smaller whales, i.e., the dolphins and porpoises,
have very large brains with relation to their body size. It was argued,
therefore, with respect to the dolphin, “this creature is of more than
ordinary wit and capacity.” (Robert Hamilton, _The Natural History of
the Ordinary Cetacea or Whales_, p. 66, in Sir William Jardine, _The
Naturalist’s Library_, volume 7, Edinburgh, 1843.)

Tiedemann’s drawings of the brain of _Delphinus delphis_ and of
_Delphinus phocaena_ were published by H. G. L. Reichenbach in his
_Anatomia Mammalium_ in 1845. The four drawings are shown in Figure 6.
These drawings show the improved awareness of the complexities of these
large brains in regard to cerebral cortex, the cerebellum, and the
cranial nerves. Correlations between the structure of this brain and the
behavior of the animal possessing it, were (and are) woefully lacking.
The only behavioral accounts were those of whalers hunting these
animals. Hunters tend to concentrate on the offensive and defensive
maneuvers of the animal, and can give useful information for other kinds
of evaluation of the animal’s behavior and presumed intelligence.

In 1787 John Hunter, writing in the _Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society of London_ (LXXVII, 423-424), said the following: “The
size of the Brain differs much in different genera of this tribe, and
likewise in the proportion it bears to the bulk of the animal. In the
Porpoise, I believe, it [the proportion] is largest, and perhaps in that
respect comes nearest to the human....

“The brain is composed of cortical and medullary substances, very
distinctly marked; the cortical being, in colour, like the tubular
substance of a kidney; the medullary, very white. These substances are
nearly in the same proportion as in the human brain.... The thalami
themselves are large; the corpora striata small; the crura of the fornix
are continued along the windings of the ventricles, much as in the human

Flatau and Jacobsohn in 1899 wrote, “the large brain of the Porpoise is
one of the smallest in the Cetacean Order in which the organ attains to
a much greater absolute size than any other.”

In 1902 G. Elliot Smith wrote of the brain of a species of dolphin
called “Delphinus tursio” (which may be the modern _Tursiops
truncatus_): “This brain is larger and correspondingly richer in sulci
than that of the porpoise: but the structure of the two organs is
essentially the same.” His drawings are shown in Figures 7 and 8. He
said further, “the brains of the Beluga and all the dolphins closely
resemble that of the porpoise.”

Smith summarizes the discussion of the huge size of the whale’s brain.
“The apparently extraordinary dimensions of the whale’s brain cannot
therefore be considered unusual phenomena, because this enormous extent
of the cerebral cortex to receive and ‘store’ impressions of such vast
sensory surfaces becomes a condition of survival of the animal.

“The marvelous complexity of the surface of the cerebrum is the direct
result of its great size. In order, apparently, that the cerebral cortex
may be efficiently nourished and at the same time be spared to as great
a degree as possible the risk of vascular disturbances [such as would be
produced by large vessels passing into it], its thickness does not
appreciably increase in large animals. [He then quotes Dubois’ figures
showing that the whale’s cortex is the same thickness as that of the
human.] Such being the case, it naturally results that the increased
bulk of cortex in large animals can only be packed by becoming thrown
into increasing number of folds, separated by corresponding large number
of sulci.”[4]

In regard to communication between individual whales, Scammon in 1874
wrote the following: “It is said that the Cachalots [Sperm Whales] are
endowed with the faculty of communicating with each other in times of
danger, when miles ... distant. If this be true, the mode of
communication rests instinctively within their own contracted
brains.”[5] Let us not forget that Scammon was talking about the mammal
with the largest known brain on this planet. Instinct as the sole cause
of communication with a brain this size seems rather improbable. This
brain is not any longer considered “contracted.” Both of these
statements illustrate an authoritative view of that time. If one peruses
the paper by Tokuzo Kojima, “On the Brain of the Sperm Whale” (in the
_Scientific Reports_ of the Whales Research Institute, Tokyo, VI, 1951,
49-72), one can obtain a modern clear view of this brain. The largest
one that he obtained (from a 49-foot sperm whale) was 9,200 grams. The
average weight of the sixteen brains presented in his paper is 7,800
grams for average body lengths of 50 feet. (The brain weight per foot of
body length varied from 118 to 187 grams per foot, averaging 157; man’s
ratio averages about 250 grams per foot.)

In the literature of the time of Scammon, the scholars failed to give us
new information about the behavior of cetacea. There seems to have been
a distinctly ambivalent attitude towards these animals which is
continued today. This point of view can be summarized as follows: the
whale is a very large animal with a brain larger than that of man. This
brain is the result of the huge growth of its body. All of this large
brain is needed to control a large body. Because these tasks are so
demanding, there is not enough brain substance left for a high degree of
intelligence to develop. Thus the large brain cannot give the degree of
intellectual capability that man has.

As an example of man’s attitudes to cetaceans, consider the case of the
U. S. Fisheries Bureau _Economic Circular_ No. 38, of November 6, 1918,
by Lewis Radcliffe, entitled “Whales and Porpoises as Food.” Roy Chapman
Andrews is quoted as saying that hump-backed whale meat is the best of
the larger cetaceans but that porpoise and dolphin meat is even better
eating than that of the larger whale. The composition of the whale meat
is given as 30% protein, 6% fat, and less than 2% ash. From a hump-back
whale one obtains six tons of meat, from a Sei Whale, five tons, and
from a Finback, eight tons. Directions are given to remove the
connective tissue between the blubber and the muscle to avoid the oily
taste. For those who are interested, the paper includes twenty-two whale
meat recipes and ten porpoise meat recipes.

It can well be imagined, if we ever do communicate with whales,
dolphins, or porpoises, the kind of reception that this sort of
literature will receive from the cetaceans.

The limited point of view of the whales as “dumb beasts” neglects the
adaptations that have taken place in non-mammalian forms with very much
smaller brains but with comparable bulk of body. The 60-foot whale
shark, a plankton eater, and like the rest of the sharks a
water-breather, has a bulk of body comparable to that of the larger
whales. It has a large brain cavity but a very small brain in a small
part of this large cavity. (It is very difficult to find the weight of
these brains to compare with that of the cetacea and other mammals.) The
problem of brain weight versus body weight versus intelligence is most
clearly expressed by Gerhardt von Bonin in his paper in the _Journal of
General Psychology_ (1937).[6] He gives a very extensive table for
mammals, their brain weight, their body weight, and the values of 2
parameters for their specification. He then states, “it is clear from
all that has been said above that the figures given here are nothing but
a description of facts, a description which, in the mathematical sense
of the term, is the ‘best’ one. It does not pretend to make any
enunciation about the relation of intelligence and brain weight. For
that purpose we need a much broader psychological basis than we have at

“Former attempts to analyze the relations between body weight and brain
weight suffer from three deficits: (1) they presuppose a correlation
between intelligence and brain weight, (2) they make suppositions about
the intelligence of animals which are unproven, and (3) they are based
on a conception of cortical function which can no longer be considered
valid.... There is a close correlation between the logarithms of brain
and body weight, and this co-relation is linear. Brain weight increases
as the 0.655th power of body weight. The value of the cephalization
co-efficient k differs from species to species. _Whether or not this is
an indication of the intelligence of animals must be left to the
psychologists to answer._”

One of the problems that the whales have, as compared to, say, the large
shark, is breathing air while living in the sea. This requires that
these animals reach the air-water interface relatively frequently—at
least every one hour and a half for the bottlenose whale (_Hyperoödon_),
three-quarters of an hour for the Sperm Whale (_Physeter catadon_), and
every six minutes for _Tursiops truncatus_. This puts very stringent
requirements on the relationship of the whales to other events within
the sea. Each whale must know where the surface of the sea is at each
instant and compute his future actions so that when he does run out of
air he is near the surface. He is essentially a surface-to-depth and
depth-to-surface oriented animal. He must travel at high speed at times
in order to recapture enough air to continue whatever he is doing under
the surface. This means that he must calculate his chances of obtaining
a good breath of air during rain storms and similar situations. He can
be violently thrown around at the surface unless he comes up in the
trough rather than at the crest of the wave. Such calculations probably
require an exercise of something more than just “instinct.”

Water-breathing animals, on the other hand, have no need for such
calculations. If the surface gets rough, they move downward and stay
there. The required maneuvers are very much simpler and the amount of
computation is very much less.

This requirement for the whales implies that the information coming from
every one of the senses, not just the skin, needs to be correlated very
rapidly and in complex patterning to allow the animals to predict their
future course safely and accurately. It also requires the use of large
amounts of information from memory.

The predators of the sea, other than the whales themselves, make life in
the sea rather a complex business for mammals. The very large sharks can
and do attack whales, dolphins, and porpoises. At times such attacks are
by overwhelming numbers of sharks on a relatively small number of
dolphins. All of the older animals in our experience have at least one
shark bite on them—the younger animals are protected by the older ones
and most of them are not so dramatically scarred.

The whales, in turn, must track their own prey in order to obtain food.
With the single known exception of _Orca_, none of their predators are
air-breathers. In general, the whales’ diet consists of fish, squid, or
other water-breathing organisms of the sea.

A scientific assessment of the position of these animals in the
competitive environment of the sea is not yet fully evaluated
quantitatively. Any pronouncement of the requirements in regard to new
complex adaptations to new complicated situations and hence the
evaluation of intelligence of these animals at this time is premature
and presumptuous. The whole issue of the meaning and the use of these
large brains is still very much unknown. As I say in _Man and
Dolphin_,[7] I am espousing a plea for an open-minded attitude with
respect to these animals. It would be presumptuous to assume that we at
the present time can know how to measure their intelligence or their
intellectual capacity. The usual behavioral criteria used in evaluation
of intelligence of other animals are obviously inapplicable to a mammal
living in the sea. As McBride and Hebb[8] so clearly stated, they cannot
place the dolphin in any sort of intellectual comparative intelligence
scale; they did not know the appropriate experimental questions to ask
in order to compare the dolphins with the chimpanzees, for example.
Comparing a handed-mammal with a flippered-mammal, each of which lives
in an entirely separate and distinctive environment, is a very difficult
intellectual task even for _Homo sapiens_.

In pursuing possible measures of intellectual and intelligent capacity,
what line should one pursue? I explored this question somewhat in _Man
and Dolphin_, but wish to summarize and extend it here in this
discussion. The invariants that we are seeking somehow do not seem to be
as concrete as “tool-making and tool-using ability” by means of the
hands which has been one of the major alleged criteria for human
adaptation and success. The chimpanzee and the gorilla have the hands
but they do not have the brains to back up the use of the hands. Man has
both the hands and the brain. Thus we can quite simply and concretely
contrast the performance of the large brains of man with his hands to
the smaller brains of the primates with their hands. When we consider
the whales, we seem obsessed, as it were, with the necessity of our own
nature to look for an analog of the hand and the manipulative ability.
May it not be better to find a more general principle than just
handedness and its use?

I suggest that we think more in terms of a physiologically appropriate
set of more general mechanisms which may subsume several other human
functions under the same principle. It seems to me that we must look for
abilities to develop generalized dexterity of use for certain kinds of
end purposes for any or all muscular outputs from the central nervous
system. If there is a task to be done, such as lifting a stone, whether
in water or air, a given animal may turn it over with his foot, with his
flipper, with his hand, with his tail, or with any other body part with
which he could obtain a purchase on the stone. The end task is turning
over the stone, to obtain food or whatever. It makes little difference
what kind of muscular equipment he uses just so he uses it

Let me illustrate with a more complex example seen in our own
laboratory. A baby dolphin was being nursed in a small tank
artificially. It apparently needed the constant attention of a human
attendant. Its mother had not been caught with it. After several days it
discovered that if it banged on the bottom of the tank with its flipper
in a rhythmic fashion it could bring the humans from the other room. (We
heard a loud thumping sound transmitted from a hydrophone in its tank.)
Previous to this it attempted to bring the humans from the other room by
whistling the distress call of the dolphins; unlike its mother, the
humans did not respond to the whistle. In a sense this distress call is
in his instinctual pattern for obtaining food and aid by other dolphins.
The secondary adaptation and the new effort was that of manipulating the
flipper rather than the phonation mechanism in the blowhole. Thus driven
by whatever the instinctual need is, it tried different outputs from its
brain and finally discovered one which brought the desired results. This
ability to change the output from unsuccessful ones to successful ones
seems to me to be evidence of a “higher nervous system” function. Of
course in fine gradation and small differences, the same kind of pattern
can be shown for smaller-brained animals. It is the seeking a new
output, not necessarily instinctually tied in, and the radicalness of
the change of output, plus the relating of many of the variables to one
another thus generating the new output, that seems to be the hallmark of
the large brain. These problems are not single variable ones with simple
cause and effect, but are simultaneous multiple variable ones.

Among the manipulable outputs (muscular groups) I would include those of
respiration and phonation. The dexterous and finely differentiated use
of these muscles generates all the complexities of human speech. As more
of the physiology and psychology of human speech are analyzed and made
part of our sciences, the sharper will be our criteria for separating
man from the other animals, and from those with smaller brains.
Scientific descriptions of human speech are of relatively recent origin.
Scientific descriptions of the physiology of the vocal tract are
anything but a closed book at the present time. The neuroanatomy and
neurophysiology of speech is in a relatively primitive state of
development as a science. With such a lack of knowledge of the intimate
and detailed mechanisms concerned, it would be rather presumptuous to
evaluate at the present time their role in the measurement and testing
of intelligence and intellectual capacity.

However, I wish to point out that these factors are important in such an
evaluation and become even more important in terms of evaluating a
species that is not human. Thus it is necessary, in order to evaluate
the intelligence of even the dolphins, much less the whales, to know
something of their abilities in the areas of phonation and other kinds
of bodily gestures and manipulations and hence in their abilities to
communicate with one another. As I implied in _Man and Dolphin_, it is
not possible to measure accurately the intelligence of any other being
than that of a human being, mainly because we do not exchange ideas
through any known communication mode with such beings.

The difficulties of such understanding as we can possibly gain of the
real situation of the whales in the sea and their adaptation as mammals
to this particular environment, can be illustrated by their use of sonic
generators for the location of their prey and of the boundaries of their
container by means of the perception of echoes. As is well known, the
small mammals, such as the bat, use this mechanism in air.[9] The
bottlenose dolphin also uses this same kind of mechanism underwater.[7]
[9][10] Because these animals are immersed in a medium of a density and
a sound velocity comparable to the density and sound velocity of their
own bodies, they can presumably use their sonar also in looking, as it
were, inside one another’s body.[7] The sonar view of the inside of the
body of a dolphin may possibly be very instructive to other dolphins and
possibly even aid in diagnosis of the causes of certain problems,
especially of those of the baby by the mother. For example, their
buoyancy depends upon maintaining their center of gravity below their
center of buoyancy; otherwise they turn over and drown. If the baby
develops gas in stomach #1, he can develop problems in his buoyancy
relationship which turn him over; however, the mother dolphin can
probably easily find out whether or not there is a bubble of gas in the
baby’s stomach by her echo ranging abilities. When she discovers such a
bubble, she can then burp the baby by banging on the belly with her
beak. We have seen such operations take place in our tanks. Here is
another instance of the animal using a given output, coupled with the
proper input, to diagnose a problem and to manipulate other outputs in
the solution of that problem. How much of this is labeled “instinctual,”
i.e., “unlearned,” is purely a matter of intellectual taste.

In the sea it is necessary to use sonic mechanisms for sightings and
recognition. If one goes into the sea one realizes that one’s range of
vision even under the best of circumstances is rarely beyond 100 feet
and most of the time is less than that even near the brilliantly lit
surface of the tropical seas. With sonic means, one’s range is extended
up to several miles under the best of circumstances and under the worst
to a few hundred feet.

Recently we have obtained evidence that shows that the dolphins
communicate most of their information in the band of frequencies
extending from about 8 kilocycles to 20 kilocycles by means of whistles
and sonic clicks.[11] However, as shown by Schevill and Lawrence, they
can hear sounds at least to 120 kilocycles[12] and as shown by Kellogg
can produce sounds at least to 170 kilocycles.[10] We have recently been
investigating the higher frequency bands in these animals and have
reliable evidence that they can hear at least to 200 kilocycles and can
produce sounds to at least 200 kilocycles.[7][13] With the proper
electronic equipment one can listen to the nearer portions of the upper
band and quickly determine that they can transmit in these bands without
the necessity of transmitting in the (lower frequency) communication
band. The high frequency information is broadcast in a narrow beam off
the front of the beak as was first detected by Kenneth Norris.[14]

In these bands we find that they can produce musical tones or individual
clickings or hissing-like noises. Recently we have found that an
emotionally upset animal threatens other animals and humans by
productions of very large amounts of energy both in the sonic
communication band and in the ultrasonic bands. Recently we have had the
opportunity of working with an old bull of 450 pounds weight who is so
old his teeth have been ground down flat. In terms of his skeleton, he
is the most massive animal we have ever seen. When he is irritated, his
“barks” have sizable amounts of energy from about 0.5 to at least 300
kilocycles. He is also capable of transmitting in bands between 100 to
300 kilocycles without transmitting anything in the band from 8
kilocycles to 20 kilocycles in a narrow beam straight ahead of his body.
When he is upset by the activities of a younger male, they face one
another and blast at one another with short barks of this sort,
meanwhile “threatening” by opening their mouths.

Since they live immersed in an acoustic world quite strange to us, we
have great difficulty in appreciating the full life of these animals
with respect to one another and their environment. From birth they are
constantly bombarded with signals from the other animals of the same
species and by echoes from the environment which they can apparently use
very efficiently. Their ultrasonic (to us) emissions are not merely
“sonar,” but are interpersonal and even emotional. These animals are not
inanimate, cold pieces of sonar apparatus. They use their ultrasounds
and their high-pitched sounds interpersonally with fervor in everything
they do.[15]

We have demonstrated that the dolphins are quite capable of using vocal
outputs as a demand for further rewards or for surcease from punishment.
Their ability in the vocal sphere is quite sophisticated. In addition to
the ultrasonic matters mentioned above, their sonic performance, when in
close contact with man, is astonishing. In 1957 I discovered their
ability to produce sounds similar to our speech sounds.[16] During the
last two years we have had many opportunities to pursue further
observations in this area. This emerging ability seems to be an
adaptation to a new environment which includes Man.[17] They quickly
discover that they can obtain various kinds of rewards by making what we
now call “humanoid emissions.” When they make a sound which sounds
similar to a human syllable or word, we express our pleasure by
rewarding the animals in various ways. We have been exploring what some
of these rewards are in order to elicit further such behavior under
better control.

    [Illustration: Figure 1. _A 16th-Century Impression of a Whale_ (by
    Konrad Gesner).

    Notice the four large human-like breasts, the two long tubes on top
    of the head, the beetling brow, the misplaced giant eye, the teeth
    and the doglike snarling facial expression, the rays in the tail.
    None of these exist in any known modern whale or dolphin or
    porpoise. All modern whales, dolphins, and porpoises have two teats,
    at the genital slit only, which are long and narrow, not
    hemispherical; the blowhole slits are flush with the skin at the
    true forehead; the relatively small eyes are at the posterior angle
    of the jaw; baleen whales have no teeth; large toothed whales have
    only a few teeth; no “facial” expression is detectable on whales,
    dolphins, or porpoises; the tale flukes of all species are smooth
    skinned, not rayed like a fish.]

   anchoras figentes sæpe periclitantur. Hos cetos Trolual sua lingua
                   appellant, Germanice _Teüffelwal_.

    [Illustration: Figure 2. _An Improved Portrayal of a Whale_ (Gilliam
    van de GouWen, 1598).

    Apparently this is a toothed whale, a sperm whale. The lower body
    (flukes, penis, lower jaw and moth and teeth) is quite accurate. The
    ear is fanciful, as is the eye.]

    [Illustration: Figure 3. _Whaling in the 19th Century._

    Sperm whale being lanced and blowing blood. (Painting in the
    collection of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford
    Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Mass.; copy through the courtesy of
    Phillip Purrington, Curator.)]

    [Illustration: Figure 4. _Whaling in the 19th Century._

    A sperm whale is attacking a whale boat with his jaws after being
    provoked by Man. There is no record of an unprovoked attack on a man
    or a boat or a ship by a whale. (Courtesy of Phillip Purrington, New

    [Illustration: Figure 5. _One of the First Drawings of a Porpoise’s
    (Phocaena) Brain_ (Gottfried Reinhold Trediramus, 1818).

    This is an anterior view. The hemispheres are artificially separated
    for unknown reasons. The optic nerves and tracts are shown. The
    complex fissuration is obvious. (Courtesy of Dr. Mary A. B. Brazier,

    [Illustration: Figure 6. _Early Drawings of the Brain of the Dolphin
    and of the Porpoise by Tiedemann._

    These drawings were reproduced by H. G. L. Reichenbach in his
    _Anatomia Mammalium_ in 1845. These are more accurate renditions and
    show the lateral expansion of these fine brains. (Courtesy of the
    Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)]

    [Illustration: Figure 7. _The First 20th-Century Drawing of a
    Dolphin Brain_ (G. Elliot Smith, 1902).

    Lateral view. The proportions are excellent, as are the gyri and
    sulci. Smith gives the species as _Delphinus tursio_; this probably
    corresponds to the modern _Tursiops truncatus_ or bottlenose
    dolphin. This brain closely resembles that of _Tursiops_ shown in
    photos in reference 7. Langworthy’s 1931 drawings (“Porpoise”) are
    also similar (Brain, 54, 225, 1931).]

    [Illustration: Figure 8. _Mesial View of Same Brain as in Figure

We demonstrated that, like other animals, the monkey, the rat, etc.,
these animals can be rewarded by stimulating the proper places in their
brains.[16][18] In a recent series of experiments we have been
establishing the controls necessary to understanding what brain rewards
mean in terms of natural physiology. We have demonstrated quite formally
that rubbing the skin of these animals with our hands is a rewarding
experience to them; they will seek it vocally and by body gestures and
give certain kinds of performance in order to obtain this reward.

Recently we have found that “vocal transactions” are a reward to these
animals.[7][13] (See below for human analogies in the child.) This seems
to be one of the basic factors in our being able to elicit humanoid
emissions. The vocal transactions are started by a human shouting some
words over the water of the tank in which the animal is residing. A
single word may be used or many words—it makes little difference.
Eventually the animal in the tank will raise his blowhole out of water
and make some sort of a humanoid emission or whistle or clicks in a
delphinese fashion. If the human immediately replies with some word or
words, the animal may immediately respond, the human answers, and a
vocal transaction is under way. We have shown that dolphins naturally do
this with one another in both their whistle and clicking spheres, and
sometimes do it in the barking sphere.[13] How much of this is
“instinctual” and how much is not, there is no way of knowing at the
present time.

A physical analysis of such vocal transactions shows them to be formally
quite as complex as the vocal transactions between human beings. In
other words, the dolphin may say one word or a syllable-like emission,
or many, one right after the other, as may the humans. If the human says
one word, the dolphin may say one, two, three, or four, and if the human
says one, two, three, or four, the dolphin may say one. There is no
necessary master-slave kind of relationship in the delphinic emissions.

In our early reports we gave examples which were single words which
sounded like the words that the human made.[16][7] This presentation led
to misunderstandings among our scientific colleagues. It looked as if
the animals were doing a slavish tape-recorder rendition of what we were
doing in a fashion similar to that of a parrot or a Mynah bird. All
along we have known that the dolphins did not do such a slavish job and
were obviously doing a much more complicated series of actions. We are
just beginning to appreciate how to analyze and what to analyze in these
transactions. As I stated in _Man and Dolphin_ about 10% of these
emissions sound like human speech. In other words, the dolphin is
“saying” far more than we have transmitted to the scientific community
to date. We hesitate to say anything more about this until we begin to
understand what is going on in greater detail. We are making progress

Let me then make an appeal to you—a long appeal to your logical and
rational views of man and cetaceans. Here I review the above points in
more general terms, and develop a plea for a new science—a new
discipline combining the best of science with the best of the

Several old questions should be revived and asked again with a new
attitude, with more modern techniques of investigation and with more
persistence. It may take twenty years or more to develop good answers;
meanwhile the intellectual life of man will profit in the undertaking.
There is something exciting and even at times disturbing in this
quest.[19] The bits and pieces may have started before historical times.
In each age of man a new fragment was allowed to be recorded and passed
on to subsequent generations. Each generation judged and rejudged the
evidence from the older sources on the basis of its then current beliefs
and on the basis of its new experiences, if any. At times good evidence
was attenuated, distorted, and even destroyed in the name of the then
current dogma.

Today we have similar problems; our current beliefs blind us, too.
Evidence right before the eye can be distorted by the eye of the
beholder quite as powerfully as it has been in previous ages of man. We
can only hope that we have achieved greater insight and greater
objectivity than some of our ancestors. The winds and currents of bias
and prejudice blow hard and run deep in the minds of men. In one’s own
mind these factors are difficult to see, and when seen, difficult to
attenuate and to allow for their influence. If at times I scold my own
species, do not take it too personally; I am scolding myself more than

You can see by now that I believe that some of the answers to the quest
are in our own minds. We must develop, imaginatively and humbly, numbers
of alternative hypotheses to expand the testable areas of the intellect
and bring to the investigation new mental instruments to test and to
collect facts germane to our questions.

To ask about the intelligence of another species, we somehow first ask:
how large and well-developed is its brain? Somewhat blindly we link
brain size (a biological fact) to intelligence (a behavioral and
psychological concept). We know, in the case of our own species, that if
the brain fails to develop, intelligence also fails to develop.

How do we judge in our own species that intelligence develops or fails
to develop? We work with the child and carefully observe its
performances of common tasks and carefully measure its acquisition of
speech quantitatively. We measure (among other factors) size of word
vocabulary, adequacy of pronunciation, lengths of phrases and sentences,
appropriateness of use, levels of abstraction achieved, and the quality
of the logical processes used. We also measure speed of grasping new
games with novel sets of rules and strategy; games physical and/or games
verbal and vocal.

Normal mental growth patterns of human children have been measured
extensively in both performance and in vocal speech acquisition. I have
taken the liberty of relating these to the normal growth of brain weight
of children.

                                TABLE I
  Threshold Quantities for Human Acquisition of Speech: Age and Brain

       _Age_        _Brain  _Speech stages_[9] (_first appearances_)
  (_months_)    weight_[8]

           2           480  Responds to human voice, cooing, and
                            vocalizes pleasure.
           4           580  Vocal play. Eagerness and displeasure
                            expressed vocally.
           6           660  Imitates sounds.
           9           770  First word.
          11           850  Imitates syllables and words. Second word.
          13           930  Vocabulary expands rapidly.
          17         1,030  Names objects and pictures.
          21         1,060  Combines words in speech.
          23         1,070  Uses pronouns, understands prepositions,
                            uses phrases and sentences.

[7]Lilly, John C. _Man and Dolphin: A Developing Relationship_. London:
    Victor Gollancz, 1962.

[8]Boston Children’s Hospital data from 1,198 records, in Coppoletta,
    J.M., and Wolbach, S.B., “Body Length and Organ Weights of Infants
    and Children,” _American Journal of Pathology_, IX (1933), 55-70.

[9]Summarized from McCarthy, Dorothea, “Language Development in
    Children,” in Carmichael, Leonard, ed., _Manual of Child
    Psychology_. New York: John Wiley, 1946, pp. 476-581.

Table 1 shows relations between age, brain weight, and speech
performance, up to 23 months, 1070 grams, and the use of full sentences.
By 17 years, the brain reaches and levels off at 1450 grams and the
number of words, levels of abstraction, etc., are so large as to be
difficult to assess.

In these processes, what are the minimum necessary but not necessarily
sufficient factors?[20] On the biological side, modern theory
concentrates on two factors: total numbers of neurons and the number of
interconnections between them. On the psychological side, modern theory
concentrates on the numbers of occurrences of reinforced contingencies
experienced, the number of repetitions, and the number of adequate
presentations from the accepted set of the consensus known as “native
language,” and the total numbers of sets in the stored memories at a
given age. In addition, of course, is the adequate development of the
transmitting and of the receiving equipment needed for speech and its
ancillary behaviors.

On the biological side, modern neurology says the number of neurons in
the human brain reaches maximum value before birth at about 13 billions.
After this point, the increase in weight consists of increased numbers
of fibers, increased connections, increased size of elements, and
increased efficiency and selectivity of transmission. Thus the increase
in weight of the human brain from about 400 to 1400 grams seems to be
devoted to improving its internal (as well as external) communication,
storage, and computation networks. As I have stated elsewhere (_Man and
Dolphin_), it is my impression that there exist critical threshold
values in the brain’s growth pattern at which certain kinds of
performance become possible. Complex speech acquisition seems related to
brain weights of 800 to 1000 grams, but no smaller. This assumes, of
course, numbers of neurons (10¹⁰) and numbers of connections and
opportunities for learning and time to learn commonly found with humans.

The critical psychological factors in speech acquisition are slowly
being dug out and described.[21][22] Among these the most important seem
to be a continuous background of presentations to the child in rewarding
circumstances of speech and its close relations to objects, actions,
satisfaction of needs, and persons. Imitation of one’s use of facial and
vocal apparatus appears spontaneously in the happy child. The virtuosity
of the child as a mimic is truly astonishing.

I am also impressed by evidence for what I call the “transactional
drive.” A bright child seems to seek and respond best to those persons
who respond in kind, back and forth in exchanges of sounds and linked
actions. For example, if one starts such a transaction with a child of
22 months with a loud word, if he is ready, he may return his version of
the word or a slight variant; if one replies with another variant the
child replies with still a third, or even suddenly with a new word, and
so on back and forth in a transactional vocal dance. Or one may reply to
a child who invites such an exchange to begin. Such exchanges seem to
function as rewards of themselves, and hence the name, “transactional
drive.” This phenomenon is more than mere mechanical slavish mimicry. It
seems to aid in perfecting pronunciation, increases vocabulary,
increases the bonds with other persons, serves to substitute the
“consensus-dictionary” words for the private baby words, and is thus
essential to learning a language of one’s own species. It is thus that
the child “becomes human.”

As the child ages and grows, the exchanges lengthen, and the time during
which each member of the dyad is quiet while the other speaks becomes
longer, until finally for a half hour or so, I am lecturing and you are
at least quiet, if not listening.

How does all of this relate to modern dolphins, porpoises, and whales?
From the vast array of scientific facts and theories about our own
species, a few of those which I feel are useful in approaching another
species to evaluate its intelligence are discussed above. But before I
make connections there, let us attenuate some interfering attitudes and
points of view, some myths not so modern; these interfering presumptions
can be stated as follows:

  (1) No animal has a language comparable to a human language.
  (2) No animal is as intelligent as man.
  (3) Man can adapt himself to any environment quite as well as any
  (4) Intelligence and intellect can be expressed only in the ways man
          expresses or has expressed them.
  (5) All animal behavior is instinct-determined.
  (6) None of man’s thought and behavior is so determined.
  (7) Only man thinks and plans; animals are incapable of having a
          mental life.
  (8) Philosophy and contemplative and analytic thought are
          characteristic only of man, not of any animal.

All of these statements stem from ignorance and anthropocentricity. For
example, who are we to say that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are to
be included as “dumb beasts”? It would be far more objective and humble
to tell the truth—we don’t know about these animals because we haven’t
“been there yet.” We have not lived in the sea, naked and alone, or even
in mobile groups, without steel containers to keep out the sea itself.
For purposes of discussion let us make the following assumptions which
push counter to the current of bias running deep among us:

  (1) Man has not yet been willing to investigate the possibility of
          another intelligent species.
  (2) Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are assumed to be “dumb beasts”
          with little or no evidence for this presumption.
  (3) We do not yet know very much about these animals—their
          necessities, their intelligences, their lives, the possibility
          of their communications.
  (4) It is possible for man to investigate these matters objectively
          with courage and perseverance.
  (5) To properly evaluate whales, dolphins, porpoises, we must use
          everything we have intellectually, all available knowledge,
          _humanistic_ as well as _scientific_.

Our best knowledge of ourselves as a species, as humans, is in the
humanities and in the budding, growing sciences of man. In pursuit of
understanding of the whales, dolphins, and porpoises, we need, at least
at the beginning, a large view which is in the human sciences and in the
humanities. The sciences of animals are necessarily restrictive in their
view, and hence not yet applicable to our problems.

The history of the animal sciences shows that they have had grave
difficulties with the fact that the observers are present and human.
These sciences, like physics, chemistry, and biology, play the game as
if the human observer were not there and the systems were isolated from
man. This is fine strategy for “man-less nature” studies and quite
appropriate for such studies.

However, I submit to you another view, for a science of man and animal,
their relationships to one another. Modern man and modern dolphin and
whale may be best investigated in the framework of a new science one
might call “anthropo-zoology” or “zoo-anthropology.” This science is a
deep study of man, of the animal, of their mutual relations, present and
potential. In this discipline scientists encourage close relations with
the animal, and study the developing relation between man and so-called

For the last three years in the Communication Research Institute[23] we
have been pursuing an investigative path in this new science with the
pair “man and bottlenose dolphin.” We have encouraged and pursued
studies in classical sciences such as neurophysiology, animal
psychology, anatomy, biophysics, and zoology. We have also initiated and
pursued this new science of the man and dolphin relation; these
“homo-delphic” studies, if you will, are triply demanding: we must not
only know our animal objectively but we must know man objectively, and
ourselves subjectively. We cannot fight shy of involving ourselves in
the investigation as objects also. In this science man, and hence one’s
own self, are part of the system under investigation. This is not an
easy discipline. One must guard quite as rigorously (or even more so)
against the pitfalls of wishful thinking and sensational fantasy as in
other scientific endeavors. This field requires a self-candor, an inner
honesty, and a humility quite difficult to acquire. But I maintain that
good science can be done here, that the field is a proper one for
properly trained and properly motivated investigators.


[1]Plinius Secundus. _Natural History._ III, Book IX.

[2]Aristotle. _Historia Animalium._ Books I-IX.

[3]Donaldson, Henry H. _The Growth of the Brain._ London: Walter Scott,

[4]Smith, G. Elliot, in Royal College of Surgeons of England, Museum,
    _Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Physiological Series
    of Comparative Anatomy_. London: Taylor and Francis, 1902, pp. 349,
    351, 356.

[5]Scammon, Charles Melville. _The Marine Mammals of the North-Western
    Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated: Together with an
    Account of the American Whale-Fishery._ San Francisco: J. H.
    Carmany, 1874, p. 78.

[6]von Bonin, Gerhardt. “Brain-Weight and Body-Weight in Mammals,”
    _Journal of General Psychology_, XVI (1937), 379-389.

[7]Lilly, John C. _Man and Dolphin._ Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961;
    London: Victor Gollancz, 1962.

[8]McBride, Arthur F., and Hebb, D.O. “Behavior of the Captive
    Bottle-Nose Dolphin, _Tursiops truncatus_,” _Journal of Comparative
    and Physiological Psychology_, XLI (1948), 111-123.

[9]Griffin, Donald R. _Echoes of Bats and Men._ Garden City, N.Y.:
    Doubleday, 1959.

[10]Kellogg, Winthrop N. _Porpoises and Sonar._ Chicago: University of
    Chicago Press, 1961.

[11]Lilly, John C., and Miller, Alice M. “Vocal Exchanges between
    Dolphins; Bottlenose Dolphins ‘Talk’ to Each Other with Whistles,
    Clicks, and a Variety of Other Noises,” _Science_, CXXXIV (1961),

[12]Schevill, William E., and Lawrence, Barbara. “Auditory Response of a
    Bottlenosed Porpoise, _Tursiops truncatus_, to Frequencies above 100
    KC,” _Journal of Experimental Zoology_, CXXIV (1953), 147-165.

[13]Lilly, John C. “Vocal Behavior of the Bottlenose Dolphin,”
    _Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society_, CVI (1926),

[14]Norris, Kenneth S., Prescott, John H., Asa-Dorian, Paul V., and
    Perkins, Paul. “An Experimental Demonstration of Echo-Location
    Behavior in the Porpoise, _Tarsiops truncatus_: (Montagu),”
    _Biological Bulletin_, CXX (1961), 163-176.

[15]Lilly, John C. “Interspecies Communication,” _McGraw-Hill Yearbook
    of Science and Technology 1962_. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962, pp.

[16]Lilly, John C. “Some Considerations Regarding Basic Mechanisms of
    Positive and Negative Types of Motivations,” _American Journal of
    Psychiatry_, CXV (1958), 498-504.

[17]Lilly, John C. “Some Aspects of the Adaptation of the Mammals to the
    Ocean,” in John Field, ed., _Handbook of Physiology_. Washington:
    American Physiological Society (in press).

[18]Lilly, John C., and Miller, A. M. “Operant Conditioning of the
    Bottlenose Dolphin with Electrical Stimulation of the Brain,”
    _Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology_, LV (1962),

[19]Lilly, John C. “Some Problems of Productive and Creative Scientific
    Research with Man and Dolphin,” _Archives of General Psychiatry_
    (1963, in press).

[20]Lilly, John C. “Critical Brain Size and Language,” _Perspectives in
    Biology and Medicine_ (in press).

[21]Skinner, Burrhus F. _Verbal Behavior._ New York:
    Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957.

[22]Lewis, Morris M. _How Children Learn to Speak._ New York: Basic
    Books, 1959.

[23]Support for the program of the Communication Research Institute, St.
    Thomas, Virgin Islands, is from the National Institute of Mental
    Health and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and
    Blindness of the National Institutes of Health; from the Coyle
    Foundation; from the Office of Naval Research; from the U. S. Air
    Force Office of Scientific Research; and from private gifts and
    contributions to the Communication Research Institute.

        _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Seminar Papers_

_Editing Donne and Pope._ 1952.

  Problems in the Editing of Donne’s Sermons, by George R. Potter.
  Editorial Problems in Eighteenth—Century Poetry, by John Butt.

_Music and Literature in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth
Centuries._ 1953.

  Poetry and Music in the Seventeenth Century, by James E. Phillips.
  Some Aspects of Music and Literature in the Eighteenth Century, by
              Bertrand H. Bronson.

_Restoration and Augustan Prose._ 1956.

  Restoration Prose, by James R. Sutherland.
  The Ironic Tradition in Augustan Prose from Swift to Johnson, by Ian

_Anglo-American Cultural Relations in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth
Centuries._ 1958.

  The Puritans in Old and New England, by Leon Howard.
  William Byrd: Citizen of the Enlightenment, by Louis B. Wright.

_The Beginnings of Autobiography in England_, by James M. Osborn. 1959.

_Scientific Literature in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England._

  English Medical Literature in the Sixteenth Century, by C. D.
  English Scientific Literature in the Seventeenth Century, by A. Rupert

  _Francis Bacon’s Intellectual Milieu._ A Paper delivered by Virgil K.
          Whitaker at a meeting at the Clark Library, 18 November 1961,
          celebrating the 400th anniversary of Bacon’s birth.

_Methods of Textual Editing_, by Vinton A. Dearing. 1962.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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