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The reason dolphins have big brains and high intelligence revealed in a 30-year study of a wild dolphin society in Shark Bay, Western Australia
In 1982, when Richard Connor hitchhiked 500 miles up the coast of Western Australia to a remote camp in Shark Bay called Monkey Mia, he had no idea that he was embarking on a life-long adventure. Richard wanted to find out why dolphins have those big brains. As luck would have it, Shark Bay turned out to be the 'Rosetta Stone' for learning about dolphin intelligence in the wild. In Shark Bay, Dr. Connor and his team discovered the most complex society known outside of humans. Central to this claim is a remarkable system of nested male alliances and the strategies, or 'politics', that allow some males to be successful in those alliances, while others fail.
In these pages Dr. Connor brings you onboard for the drama, the discoveries and the insights that have revealed the astonishing, often sexual and sometimes violent, social lives of dolphins. In the world of male dolphin politics you will meet a range of personalities, from the misnamed Lucky, to the master politican Real Notch, whose 30 year career may never be equaled. The dolphins' stories and lives unfold like a novel as they negotiate a labyrinth of friends, rivals, rival friends and friendly rivals.
Dr. Connor, one of the top dolphin scientists in the world, has produced a "must read" book for anybody interested in dolphins, animal behavior, and one of the big questions in science: why dolphins – and humans – evolved big brains and high intelligence.
Richard C. Connor, Ph.D., co-founded the dolphin research in Shark Bay in 1982 and is a co-director of The Dolphin Alliance Project. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1990, Dr. Connor held post-doctoral positions at Harvard, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, The Michigan Society of Fellows and The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Connor has taught for 21 years at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth where he is a Professor of Biology.
"One can't get any closer to dolphins than Richard Connor did for 30 years in Western Australia. A lively book full of encounters and the discovery of politics, tool use, grief, flirtations, and fallings out. The book reads like a soap opera of both dolphin and human characters, and will bring a new appreciation of the complexity of the dolphin mind."
– Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
"Richard Connor is the Jane Goodall of the dolphins. His enthralling tale is a classic of scientific discovery and a masterpiece of natural history"
– Richard Wrangham, Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and author of Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (with Dale Peterson) and Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
"Dolphins entrance us. But, the real nature of these beguiling creatures has been largely hidden under the waves. Richard Connor, with 30 years of extraordinary insight, reaches deep into the minds of the dolphins, and their ever-shifting societies. They are individuals with strong and contrasting personalities. He shows us their world, and their nature"
– Hal Whitehead, Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University and author of The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins (with Luke Rendell)
"If you've ever watched dolphins riding a ship's bow wave or frolicking at sea, you've probably wondered: "What is it like to be a dolphin?" Connor's engaging and insightful book answers this question – and more. His heartfelt account of the 30 years he's spent watching and studying the dolphins who live in the crystal clear waters of Shark Bay, western Australia, tells the tales of the individual dolphins he came to know as his friends. By watching them daily, Connor has unraveled their societies and discovered they are as complicated – and politically driven – as our own. He argues that, as in humans, the need for demanding social skills drove the evolution of dolphins' large brains and intelligence. In his book, he describes the surprise of discovering that dolphins live in groups similar to the gangs of "West Side Story," with complex friendships, consortships, alliances and betrayals. And it is those social skills that have led them to be the brainiacs of the sea. An entertaining, moving and compelling read."
– Virginia Morell, author of the New York Times' bestseller, Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel