The nature and extent of dolphin intelligence has long intrigued humans. Unequivocal answers to the question “how intelligent are dolphins?” have proven evasive due to both the existing myriad views of intelligence and the ambiguity of much spontaneous dolphin behavior. In this paper, we focus on one aspect of intelligence, namely the ability to plan one's behavior in a meaningful way. The generalized ability to create novel and appropriate behavioral plans when confronted with new problems has obvious evolutionary advantages, but has been found in relatively few species. The studies reported in this paper demonstrate planning behaviors in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in conditions quite different from those that occur during dolphin foraging and mating (two areas in which wild dolphins may engage in planning). The dolphins' ability to plan their behaviors in these novel contexts provides additional evidence that generalized planning ability is not unique to humans, and demonstrate that human-like language is not required for generalized planning skills. These findings also suggest that in addition to species niche specific cognitive abilities, generalized cognitive abilities may play an important role in the evolutionary success of some species.
2009 by Japanese Society for Animal Psychology