A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that dolphins are likely to be smarter and more adaptable than previously thought.
The findings come from an analysis of research done by scientists at several universities in Europe and North America, including the University of Copenhagen and the University College London.
The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
“We have now shown that dolphins, in particular, have developed sophisticated brain structures that allow them to cope with a range of social challenges,” said lead author Dr. Kristin F. Andersen of the University at Copenhagen.
Dolphins have been the focus of controversy in recent years because of their alleged links to the mysterious “endangered” killer whales of the southern Indian Ocean, which have been killed off in the past two decades by fishing gear and commercial fishing.
They have been seen in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Tasmania in recent decades.
Dolphin researchers say the “endemic” killer whale population in the southern hemisphere is a result of human fishing, unsustainable hunting, pollution, and overfishing.
They also say the dolphins are not living in the right ecosystem.
Researchers say the recent decline in the number of dolphins seen in commercial fishing operations and in the Antarctic shows that the dolphins, as well as other marine mammals, are being systematically overfished and exploited.
The report said dolphins are becoming smarter and less prone to natural predators, including humans.
The research team’s analysis suggests that dolphins can better adapt to human behavior by learning to interact with humans on an unconscious level, and this requires a shift in their environment.
The team is also working to find ways to make dolphins more social.
They are studying the development of a social learning system that could allow dolphins to learn social cues by themselves, as opposed to being taught to associate a cue with another stimulus, such as a vocal response.
They’re also developing technologies to monitor and control their social behavior.
“It’s really a matter of figuring out how dolphins can be smart enough to evolve into intelligent animals, not just smart enough for human use,” Andersen said.
In addition to the IUCN report, the researchers say dolphins have shown evidence of an ability to learn through social learning, and are becoming more social in general.
In a separate study published in the journal Science Advances, they say dolphins are learning from social interactions through the development and use of a new “social learning system.”
They found that dolphins were better able to learn from the experience of their immediate friends, and to predict their own responses to cues.
They also said that dolphins have evolved the ability to distinguish between “self and others” and have developed social skills that allow dolphins “to distinguish between friends from a distance, to avoid being attacked by a predator, and, in some cases, to communicate with other dolphins.”
The research team also says that the research team has discovered a “new class of species” that has been named the “Endangered Killer Whale” because of the decline in its population.
They said this is a new group of species that is endangered and that its decline could be a result, in part, of human-caused environmental changes, such a overfishering of dolphins in the Arctic, and pollution of their food supply.
The research is funded by the European Union’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the European Commission, and the Danish government.
Follow Associated Press writer Michael Ngo on Twitter at @MichaelNgoDC.