Are females better at innovation than males (and/or, perhaps, at transferring, extending and preserving it within social groups)? Do dolphins know something about innovation that humans don't? Is it even fair to compare the two species? Or to call what they're doing 'innovation' (elevating it above the notion of simple behavioral adaptation)?
... So far, almost all of the dolphin spongers have proved to be female. "The sex difference is really striking," Dr. Mann says. "I don't know of another species where it is so dramatic."
Of the spongers' offspring, only the daughters could be seen still sponging once they reached maturity. The sons tried it but almost always abandoned it...
For Dr. Mann, the discovery that dolphins too are tool users adds an unexpected dimension to the history of innovation, shedding new light on animal intelligence. Clever mimics and fast learners, dolphins have unusually large brains -- four times the size of a chimpanzee's and second only to humans in relative size. Dolphins even show evidence of self-awareness, by being able to recognize themselves in a mirror, some scientists argue.
Not to fuel further gender wars, but this note on the mid-sixties television series, 'Flipper' seemed interesting:
Flipper was played mainly by a female dolphin named Suzy, and occasionally by other females named Patty, Kathy, Scotty and Squirt. Female dolphins were chosen because they are less aggressive than males and their skins (unlike the skins of male dolphins) are usually free from scars and other disfigurations acquired in altercations with other dolphins. The five dolphins performed all of Flipper's thespian chores except the famous tail walk, a trick they were unable to master completely.