The director of dolphin research at Baltimore's National Aquarium retraces the path by which science has come to understand dolphin intelligence.
A committed activist on behalf of dolphin welfare, Reiss provides an account of her personal journey and the history of the development of proofs of the creatures’ high intelligence. The author chronicles the evolution of the field, beginning with John Lilly's groundbreaking work on their language and concluding with a description of her own experimental work that demonstrates that dolphins are creatures endowed with self-awareness. Reiss also discusses her struggle to get these important findings published in scientific literature. In her doctoral thesis, she proposed a series of rigorous experiments that laid the basis for documenting dolphins’ ability to communicate with symbols, recognize their mirror image and even reflect upon their experiences. While involved in her scientific studies, she was also struggling to secure funding and protect the animals she was working with from being sold for commercial exploitation. Reiss movingly conveys her deepening relationship with the dolphins, and she documents how, through each step of the process, and with each new generation, there is a tremendous emotional pull built upon the establishment of communication and empathy between our different species. This has historical antecedents—reflected in classical mythology, as well as in the actual experiences of people rescued at sea by dolphins.Among the author’s purposes in writing this engrossing scientific memoir is to build support to stop the annual massacres of dolphins in Japan and elsewhere.