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The highly developed brain of whales

Updated on April 21, 2015


The whale evolved for 30 millions of years. Its brains are slightly different than human brains. They contain less neurons, but more spindle cells. Neurons are responsible for information traffic. In the meantime, spindle cells allows the possibility to feel emotions. Although these differences, a lot of commonalities have been found with the human brain.

Communication between whales

Whales use their voice to communicate with each other. Using complex singing patterns, information is being send. This form of communication is being called "singing". This is due the predictable and unpredictable soundfragments itconsists of. The high diversion of soundpatterns, shows that a lot of different kind of information is being transmitted, like identification.

An own identity

Sperm whales might give each other a name. Scientists found evidence of this during the examination of sound records. It proved that the animals communicate with each other in its own specific way. They start their conversation with a unique sound pattern. This way, they are able to identify themselves (call their names). This behaviour has also been seen during dolphin studies. Sound samples were being played of another dolphin, of which they used to know. By studying his reaction, researchers found out that one of the sound samples seems to be a name. This way it has been proven, that his brains are very complex.

Brains and brain connections

To estimate a animal's intelligence, its brain size is being measured. Also, the way how its brain is wired seems to be important. This is how researchers can tell whether an animal is intelligent or not. Sperm whales have the biggest brain. It can grow five times bigger than human brains. One if the things which is being observed during brain examination, is the amount of "neurons". Neurons are responsible for the processing of information. Whales have a smaller amount of neurons than human brains, but they have a bigger amount of "glial cells". Scientist have discovered in 2004 the fact that glial cells also have the possibility to transmit data. This proofs whales to be more intelligent than thought before. Also, the amount of spindelcells these mammals have, are enormous. They appear to have three times as much spindel cells as humans have. These kind of cells are responsible for the feeling of emotions. It was only known that primates had these kind of cells.


The possibility to feel emotions

Spindle cells can be found in multiple whale species. Humpback whales, sperm whales and killer whales all have these type of cells. These cells have been improved by nature for million of years. Human brains have "only" been evolved for a few hundred of thousand years. This could mean that whales can feel stronger emotions than humans. Emotions like love and sadness would be felt more strongly. It could even be possible that whales can feel totally different emotions. In this case, the emotions would be unimaginable for us. Different kind of emotions can be useful for interacting with each other on a social level.

Social behaviour

Emotions are an important part during social interactions. Whales often communicate with each other during their life span. Together they search for food, take care of their offspring and reunite during mating season.

Whale protection

Multiple organizations are founded for the well being of the whale. This is partly caused by the discovery of the fact that whales are more intelligent than expected. Scientists agree that the species have a lot of similiarities with human beings, and therefore should have the same rights. A law one can think of, is a safe and protected life for whales and dolphins.


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