Matthew Hancock, of Waihopai School, asks :-

Can dolphins communicate with humans?

Adrian Leake, a marine zoologist with Marineland in Napier, responded.

The only thing that stops us communicating with people who speak a different language to ours, is that we do not understand their language. Once we know how to interpret the words spoken, we can then communicate ideas and thoughts to one another.

Back in the 1960's it was predicted that people would be communicating with dolphins within a couple of decades. This idea of dolphins being extremely intelligent creatures caught people's imagination. As a result many people believe that dolphins are as smart, or perhaps smarter than people. At present there is little scientific evidence to support this idea. Intelligence is a difficult thing to measure. All we can say is that the dolphins' intelligence is somewhere between that of dogs, seals and chimps.

We know that dolphins communicate with each other by high frequency sound waves but we dont know what most of the sounds mean. From the research that has been done on captive dolphins; it appears that they do not possess a language that would allow them to communicate on our level.

We can communicate with dolphins in far simpler ways. Those of us that have pets communicate with them every day. Bringing out the dogs' lead will start tails wagging in the anticipation of a walk around the block. A dolphin slapping its tail flukes on the surface of the water can convey a threat or displeasure.

Hoewever, the idea of dolphins discussing with us the finer points of music, rugby or politics is still fantasy and appears to happen only in Hollywood.