If Dolphins Had Hands And Thumbs We’d All Be F***ed, Says New Study
A Treehouse of Horror episode in The Simspons explored the idea of what would happen if dolphins used their incredible intellect to take over mankind. Lisa releases a dolphin named Snorky from the confines of its enclosure at the Springfield Marine World, without realising he's king of all dolphins.
Despite the citizens of Springfield launching an attack on the 'clowns of the ocean', as Homer dubs them, mankind loses and is forced to live a life on the sea.
And in a bone-chilling development, it appears the only thing standing in the way of that actually happening is dolphins' lack of hands.
Credit: Fox/The Simpsons
According to a new study, dolphins and humans are on a par in virtually every aspect that's needed for 'planetary dominance'. Published in Nature, the study says: "Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) have the largest nervous systems of any taxonomic group, and rank highly on every putative measure of neuroanatomical complexity.
"Many cetaceans are also organised in hierarchical social structures and display an astonishing breadth of cultural and prosocial behaviours, providing a rare parallel to humans and other primates in terms of social, behavioural and neuroanatomical complexity."
Dolphins also give each other names, they look after children that aren't theirs and they learn from each other, as well as hunting with each other.
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University of Manchester evolutionary biologist Dr. Susanne Shultz co-authored the study, and says: "Unfortunately, they won't ever mimic our great metropolises and technologies because they didn't evolve opposable thumbs."
Their intellect is so sophisticated that the US Navy has been using bottlenose dolphins for years to help find equipment lost at sea, keep swimmers out of restricted waters and even detect underwater mines.
Sea Watch Foundation Monitoring Officer Katrin Lohrengel has told LADbible: "Bottlenose dolphins are renowned for their intelligence which has been compared to that of great apes. They have been observed using tools in the wild, they have been shown to have a sense of self-awareness and are able to understand complex instructions, even understanding basic human syntax.
"As all dolphin species, they are equipped with what is essentially biological sonar, echolocation, which they use to hunt down prey and which the navy makes use of underwater detect mines."
Credit: US Navy/Photographer's Mate 1st Class Brien Aho
National Geographic says the species also has the longest memory in the animal kingdom. In the mid-90s, researchers tested the dolphin's sensitivity by burying three metal cylinders made of brass, stainless steel or aluminium two feet under mud in the ocean. A dolphin called BJ was able to distinguish between each cylinder - illustrating why they are so good at detecting mines.
Dolphins, along with sea lions, have guarded a US army ammunition pier during the Vietnam War, and were deployed from Bahrain during a late stage of the Iran-Iraq war to help protect against attacks on the US Navy Third Fleet. They helped provide security for the 1996 US Republican National Convention at the San Diego Convention Centre as well as clearing mines in the Persian Gulf just before the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The US Navy Marine Mammal was believed to have the Pentagon's financial backing until 2020. But in 2012, the Navy unveiled plans for the Knifefish, a torpedo-shaped underwater robot which would be ready for deployment in 2017. The BBC reported that they're also buying a German mine-hunting robot which basically makes the dolphins and sea lions obsolete - in military terms, at least.
So count your blessings we developed hands and thumbs and the dolphins didn't, because it would be a very different world if they had.
Featured Image Credit: Fox/The Simpsons