Follow TV Tropes


Sapient Cetaceans

Go To

"[On Earth], man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars, and so on — while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons."

Many scientists, writers, and laypeople consider cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) to be very intelligent — almost, or even equally, as intelligent and self-aware as human beings. But we can't talk to them, so we can't be sure.

This trope is for dolphins and whales that quite clearly demonstrate their human-level intelligence by talking to non-cetaceans, communicating via telepathy, using magic or technology, piloting spaceships, or other activities generally beyond merely-clever animals. Often, telekinesis is used to make up for dolphins' lack of hands to manipulate their environment.

Sapient cetaceans may demonstrate obvious sentience because of genetic engineering or magical phlebotinum, or human-level intelligence and the skills to prove it may just be natural traits of cetaceans in the setting.

This is actually Truth in Television to a degree; although they probably aren't on the same level as us humans, they're pretty close, even moreso than you might at first think. Some of the more intelligent cetaceans such as orca and bottlenose dolphin are at least on par with some apes in terms of memory, problem solving, and coordination. It is notable however that while the family as a whole is fairly smart as far as animals go, not all cetaceans are equally sharp. Baleen whales are generally less intelligent than the likes of dolphins and toothed whales.

For dolphins in particular, this may sometimes overlap with Friendly, Playful Dolphin, or Heroic Dolphin, or both, but not always. You may be dealing with Devious Dolphins instead. Compare Uplifted Animal, which often includes (and may artificially induce) this trope.

Note that examples of Animal Talk, or stories taking place in a World of Funny Animals, don't count. Even then, however, whales and dolphins are likely to be portrayed as smarter on average than other species or as The Smart Guy in an ensemble cast. For similar animal stereotypes see Clever Crows and The Owl-Knowing One.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Damekko Doubutsu has a sentient orca that cannot swim and uses a life preserver.
  • In the 1960 Astro Boy a sentient race of dolphin people threaten war on humanity if they keep developing on their land.
  • A well-known arc of Gundam X has the Mysterious Waif actually talk to dolphins, presumably with her Psychic Powers. The arc also includes a white dolphin, which seems to be psychic itself.
  • The main heroes of Cyborg 009 named their ship 'The Dolphin'; in the manga, genetically and cybernetically enhanced dolphins were a pretty common enemy, used by Black Ghost as underwater scouts, soldiers, and assassins.
  • Mars Daybreak showcases Poipoider, a dolphin who spends much of his time in a suit of power armor wielding heavy weapons.
  • Ruffin the dolphin from Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure in the South Seas is a Heroic Dolphin capable of communicating with the main cast via telepathy, with the revelation near the end that Ruffin's actually an animal cop working for the Time Police.
  • Psychic Squad has the appearance of Lieutenant Ikyuugo, a dolphin with precognitive powers, whom The Children affectionately call "old man."
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, dolphin-men are one of the many denizens found in the Magic World. One of them works as a trucker who pilots an airship.
  • The final episode of GunBuster shows an Orca amongst a ship's crew.
  • Digimon - Dolphmon possesses advanced intelligence, but its form of thought is too complex for a normal person to understand.
  • "Seiketsu no Haguruma" had a literal blue-blooded Gadgeteer Genius prince (whose inventions were, unbeknownst to him, being used by his father to eradicate the remaining red-blooded refugees) possess a dolphin that was not only intelligent (if crabby) but could also fly in the air.

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Comic has some comic strips based on the Ecco the Dolphin series which explicitly portray Ecco as a very clever and resourceful dolphin, even to the point of tricking a jellyfish and a polar bear into attacking each other instead of him. We also see him discussing subjects like alien invasions with other creatures and even talking crystals. See also the Ecco entry in the video game section.
  • 52 has a sapient space dolphin in Lobo's entourage.
  • "The Forty Year Old Hippie" made an apparatus to talk with whales and used it on a Greenpeace-style mission... but only ended up antagonizing a whale with a "survival of the fittest" attitude who resented the hippie's patronizing.
  • In an Animal Man story set in 2029, the Green Lantern Corps has passed over human candidates and chosen a blue whale as the lantern for Earth's sector. He has a uniform, and his ring is a crest embedded in his belly.

    Comic Strips 
  • One comic by Don Martin has a scientist making a device that translates dolphin speech, and tests it on the dolphin present in the lab. He hears what the dolphin says, but immediately turns around and embarrassedly zips his fly.
  • Dilbert: One series has Dilbert trapped miles from shore while dolphins taunted him for hours ("Let's ask the humming fish to do the Jaws theme song..."). They also steal his swimming trunks.
  • The Far Side: A group of clueless human scientists are sitting in a lab, studying the possibility of dolphin speech, but struggling with the incomprehensible sounds they're making: "Matthews...we're getting another one of those strange 'aw blah es span yol' sounds."note 

    Fan Works 
  • It's mentioned in Dæmorphing that few people in the world have dolphin dæmons; since dæmons can't take the form of sapient beings, this implies that most dolphin species are sapient in this setting.
  • In Meta-Fic Alt: Rising War, a RWBY Subreddit dramatization, the King of Blue Whales is a major character, along with his helpers Cyan and Sulfur. They are part of a whale society that has developed technology to compress their bodies into a semi-humanoid form to survive on land.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, an alien probe is sent to Earth to re-establish relations between an alien race and humpback whales. Seems they didn't know that in the meantime human civilization had risen and caused the extinction of humpbacks sometime before 2286. In the movie, it's left to the viewer's imagination what the whales and the probe are actually saying, but the novelization makes it more explicit.
  • In Johnny Mnemonic, the protagonist spends most of the movie trying to find a way to get a whole lot of computer data out of his mind before the stress of having all that stuff in there fries his brain. Other people seem to only be able to come up with crude methods leading to his likely death, but he eventually does find someone who saves him - a genetically modified super-smart dolphin, originally created by the military for submarine warfare.
  • Avatar: The Way of Water: The Tulkun are the direct counterpart to Earth baleen whales, extremely intelligent Gentle Giants able to swallow whole schools of fish at a time. The Metkayina people consider the Tulkun extensions of their tribes and are able to carry on conversations with them, and appoint themselves their protectors since the Tulkun collectively swore off the use of violence long ago... except for Payakan.

  • Dinotopia: Although every creature in and around the island of Dinotopia is at least intelligent enough to communicate with humans, dolphins were the first to interact with humans.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Dolphin Island, human researchers learn to understand dolphins' language and some of the dolphins learn to speak some English words. Eventually communication becomes good enough for the dolphins to explain what they wanted all along: human protection from orcas. Orca are good at communicating within their species but less intelligent than dophins, so the researchers come up with a nightmarish way to train individual orca to fear attacking dolphins in the hope that the fear will spread through their entire population.
  • The Dragonriders of Pern features sentient dolphins, who were genetically uplifted by the ancestors of the Pernese humans.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, humans are actually only the third most intelligent creatures on Earth. The first is mice. But then, they are hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who are actually running the Earth, which is a giant computer program, and the second is explicitly stated to be dolphins (who aren't in disguise and are still ahead of humans), and who knew about the impending destruction of Earth long before the humans themselves knew about it. The dolphins tried to warn them, but when the humans didn't understand, they left the planet quietly by their own means. Their last message is "so long and thanks for all the fish", and this all becomes important in the book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. At the end of it, it's all but stated outright that the Dolphins were responsible for restoring Earth.
  • Hothouse: The Sodal Ye is a sapient dolphin descendant. It has a good claim to being the most intelligent creature in a world where most sapient beings range from stolidly unimaginative to simply idiotic; as a consequence, it's also incredibly conceited and condescending.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • The Diane Duane Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror involves an alien race that's essentially dolphins IN SPACE! (They're not related to the whales IN SPACE from Star Trek IV.) One dolphin is a supporting character, which held the rank of commander in Starfleet. At one point, Riker whistles a specific sequence of notes to get its attention, implying he can speak (or at least swear) in Dolphin.
    • The Star Trek The Next Generation: Technical Manual notes that the Cetacean tanks on board contain the dolphin and whale navigational specialists. This is pretty much a shout out to Gunbuster, where cybernetically enhanced dolphins form the main navigational computer of the Eltreum.
    • In Probe, a sort-of sequel novel to Star Trek IV, the Cetacean probe is traced back to its homeworld— inhabited by a race of super-dolphins. They had telekinetic powers, what the internal dialog of the Probe calls 'The Voice'. It is stated that they had range and power enough to protect their planet from invasion by a civilization strongly implied to be the Borg. They were not, however, able to prevent these would-be invaders from rendering their star unable to sustain life on their world, so they built ships and, like the humanoids that had dwelt on the land, fled from the known universe. (These humanoids are also implied to have fled from the Borg, but while there are indications they fled a threat and deliberately left false clues to their destination(s) as part of a system of prepared traps,note  there are no specific descriptions of what the threat was.) Ultimately the Enterprise crew and a Romulan musician (as super-dolphins, the Probe-builders' language is musical in nature) team up to copy the telekinetic "Voice" via tractor beams and communicate with the Probe.
  • Sounding: Whales from different species hold philosophical discussions on what humans might be thinking. They conclude we only make sense to ourselves.
  • Duane's Young Wizards book series also features Cetacean wizards (the Trek novel contains a Shout-Out to them). Of course, pretty much everyone and everything with more brains than a sponge has Wizarding potential in this setting.
  • David Brin:
    • Uplift: Dolphins were uplifted to human-level sapience, alongside chimpanzees, and have colonized other planets alongside their human patrons. Because dolphins evolved in a truly 3D environment they're crackerjack spaceship pilots. They were already rather intelligent before uplift, they and the larger whales sharing a unique way of thinking referred to as the "Whale Dream", and whale songs are treasured by many alien races.
    • Existence features a "tribe" of dolphins who show unusual intelligence, catching fish using a net, having a language that they manage to teach to a human, etc. It's eventually discovered that they were partially uplifted, but abandoned when funding ran out. After they save an oligarch's son he revives the uplift program.
  • Known Space establishes that dolphins were recognized as sapient beings in the late 20th century. Not long after they sue us for our whaling practices in a suit that literally takes hundreds of years to get through the court system (the dolphins enjoy it too much to let it resolve).
  • In The Probability Broach novel and its sequels' Backstory, several animals were discovered sapient and intelligent but devoid of speech, dolphins among them. The problem was easily solved with a special artifact. We even see a Dolphin scientist working in his tank.
  • The Scar by China Miéville has sapient dolphins aiding the security forces of the floating pirate settlement of Armada, as well as a small mention of sapient whales. Inverting typical presentations the main dolphin character is a sadist named Bastard John, while the whales are all extremely stupid dupes of the book's primary antagonists.
  • Animorphs:
    • Cassie has a minor crisis because she's not sure if it's right to take a dolphin's DNA or control its mind; one of their rules is that the Animorphs never morph a sapient creature without its permission, or unless it's an urgent emergency. Whether or not they're truly sapient is never quite settled, (although whales just barely are, according to the Drode), but they are capable of a kind of telepathic communication with whales ("great ones"; the dolphins are the "little ones.") Cassie firmly believes they have souls, and everyone loves the dolphin morph because they're so happy and carefree.
    • Orcas are also implied to be fully sentient, to the point where in the place of the usual instincts that the team have to overcome, they seem to have a fully-functioning mind which is aware about the fact that it is indeed a morph.
    • Also in Animorphs, at least one whale is confirmed to be sentient: the Drode must spare its life for this reason.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos there is mention of intelligent telepathic dolphins. Unfortunately they were hunted nearly to extinction because it was discovered they were sentient.
  • Alan Dean Foster's works:
    • Subverted in the Spellsinger series: in a world where every species of mammal or bird is intelligent, dolphins are essentially a bunch of slackers, whose only interest in land-goers is the chance to swap dirty jokes.
    • His Humanx Commonwealth series gives Earth's cetaceans their own ocean-covered world to inhabit as reparations for centuries of hunting and pollution. The baleen whales are more slow-witted, the dolphins more involved with humans, and the sperm whales are aloof but brilliant with Psychic Powers.
  • In the Greatwinter Trilogy by Sean McMullen, scientists reconstruct ancient cetacean DNA and create three members of the species who turn out to be telepathic/smarter than humans.
  • This concept gets a Take That! in The Polity novel The Skinner. The narrator notes that eventually people were able to accurately measure the intelligence of animals, and found that despite longstanding stereotype, dolphins and whales were actually pretty dumb. Instead, the novel has a swarm of wasps who form a Hive Mind / living computer of equal or greater than human intelligence.
  • In the 1981 book Megalodon by Robin Brown, the protagonist scientist has developed the Janus device, a computer/vocoder/translator which enables him to teach two dolphins (nicknamed Doris and Macho) and a killer whale (Morgan) a rudimentary language (their own language is sophisticated enough to communicate three-dimensional sonar images — it's converting that into a language simple enough to be translated that's the problem).
  • The 1967 novel A Sentient Animal by Robert Merle is about a scientist who successfully teaches human languages to dolphins, resulting (to his dismay) in the latter being used as living weapons by the US military.
  • In Piers Anthony's Prostho Plus stories — about a human dentist abducted by aliens to serve as their on-ship oral hygiene practitioner — the intrepid prosthodontist is called upon to do some filings for a life-form on a wholly aquatic planet, who turns out to be the son of a whale-like species who are planetary rulers and who can therefore pay the fabulous costs of tons of gold used to restore the cavity-laden rotten teeth. After several days of work with JCB's to excavate the rot and a portable blast furnace to melt the gold for the fillings — all done inside the creature's mouth as it really is that large — the dentist asks what caused catastrophic rot in the first place. He learns that over-indulgent parents had allowed too many sweeties and not imposed a good enough teeth-cleaning regime...
  • John Ringo's Council Wars series has Delphinos: Humans who have used advanced genetic engineering to turn themselves into dolphins and have lost all sense of their own humanity as a result.
  • In Sergey Volnov's Army Of The Sun, someone thought it was a good idea to uplift not only whales but also sharks (despite the latter being a fish and not a mammal). Oh yeah, and they also have incredible Psychic Powers. Interestingly, the only intelligent shark in the novel is pretty peaceful and bears humans no ill will and is a mentor to a young intelligent orca. For reference, orca's kill sharks for sport.
  • In The Dresden Files novel Small Favor, dolphins turn out to not only be intelligent, but smart enough to recognize that Harry is a good guy and the squad of Fallen Angels lurking nearby are the bad guys and thus warn Harry that he's walking into an ambush.
  • In the Hell's Gate series the Cetaceans of Sharona have been established as having intelligence at or near human levels. Some humans are able to telepathically talk to them and they act as ambassadors trading human services (such as medical treatment) for the Cetaceans' help with things like fishing and finding oyster beds.
  • Betty Ballantine's The Secret Oceans features intelligent dolphin-like creatures which are dubbed Cetasapiens.
  • The Glove of Darth Vader mentions the Whaladons, a species of sapient whales native to the Mon Calamari homeworld. The Empire legalized their hunting, but the New Republic put a stop to it.
  • In the Revelation Space univers, dolphins are used as pilots for surface-to-space shuttles after the Melding Plague destroys most of the advanced technology, including the automated shuttles of the past. The Generation Ship that Chasm City partly takes place on has a tank of sapient dolphins, but their cooped up surroundings (barely larger than a home's pool) has caused them to become psychotic.
  • William Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic" features Jones, a drug-addicted cyborg dolphin who communicates through a panel of christmas lights and lives in an amusement park after being retired from the Navy. He uses his SQUID implant to help Johnny extract the stolen Yakuza data in his head in exchange for a shot of good shit.
  • The Rings of Saturn features an uplifted dolphin as a telepathic Drill Sergeant Nasty.
  • The Causal Angel has mentions of cetamorphs, uplifted dolphins who live in giant water tank ships in the Asteroid Belt.
  • Wet Goddess portrays the cetaceans as completely sapient, while keeping the Real Life setting plausible. (the story is based on real events).
  • Peter Macey's Stationary Orbit: ET signals of presumed exo-planetary origin are revealed to be from a nearby (the research institution's) dolphin school park.
  • In the Venus Trap by Kurt Mahr, of the PerryRhodan series; In an escape by sea, Son Okura establishes telepathic contact with seal-like creatures that guide him, Rhodan, and John Marshall eventually to safety of the shore.
  • The Death Gate Cycle: The dolphins and whales who inhabit Chelestra, the world of water, are sapient, capable of speech and allied with the mensch who live there, helping them by ferrying messages through and exploring the global ocean where the mensch cannot go. The whales don't show up much on-page, while the dolphins are shameless and enthusiastic gossips.
  • In Into the Drowning Deep, along with the crew of the ship, Imagine entertainment sent along a team of dolphins, one of whom gets his own viewpoint chapter, and who the crew considers to be people. It's mentioned that things are legally contentious re: cetaceans, because scientists consider them people but governments haven't caught up. Theo says Imagine's contract with the dolphins covers their ass both ways: either the dolphins are animals and they don't need a contract, or the dolphins are people and they agreed to this.
  • The Doctor Who novel Storm Harvest features the ocean planet Coralee, where dolphins are equipped with telepathic translators and, for dry land manoeuvre, mechanical, multi-legged exoskeletons.
  • In the Dolphin Trilogy, dolphins and whales are fully sentient and all speak Dolphinese, a language of clicks and whistles. John, Vinca, and Syn have all been raised by dolphins and are fluent in Dolphinese, and John tries to prove the intelligence of whales in his unsuccessful efforts to get whaling banned.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In SeaQuest DSV, Ensign Darwin is a dolphin crew member of the titular submarine. He can speak passable english thanks to a translator device hooked to the ships computer, and is considered an honorary ensign in the Navy. A few episodes involve them telling Darwin what to do, such as "playing" with automated submarine drones, causing them to crash into each other.
  • Star Trek:
  • Parodied during a skit in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Devil Fish". Mike and the bots make the mistake of talking disparagingly about dolphins—only to have a "Dolphin Mothership" show up and start attacking them. It takes some serious kissing up in order to get them to leave. (Later on, Mike and the bots start talking smack about electricians, only to discover that they have a mutual protection pact with the dolphins. Whoops.)
  • In the candid camera show The Jamie Kennedy Experiment one victim is actually convinced that a dolphin can speak using a robotic-sounding translator. The dolphin asks to make a cellphone call to his girlfriend in another tank. It's really well-done, enough so that the mark actually accepts this, until the dolphin starts talking about their secret plans to overthrow the world, losing much of its credibility.
  • One episode of Upright Citizens Brigade included a sketch at a town hall meeting where one concerned mother (played by Amy Poehler) wanted the issue of dolphin-centric questions on the SATs addressed. She reads several examples of questions involving detailed knowledge of marine life and species and argues that it wasn't fair to human children. Eventually they bring in a dolphin in a tank with a dolphin-to-human translator device, and he proceeds to insult all of them with some really filthy smack talk. The hidden-camera bit they did while the credits played for that episode had Amy Poehler (in character) bringing this up and reading similar sample questions at an actual town's town hall meeting, much to their confusion.
  • In Made For Love, employees at tech company Gogol can communicate with Zelda, a dolphin who lives at their corporate campus, using some ambiguously-defined technology resembling earbuds. Those who do so find that she's very intelligent, observant, and quite witty, and undercover FBI agent Jasper even takes a liking to her.

  • The 1970 album Songs of the Humpback Whale was the first album released to the public featuring nothing but sounds of singing whales. At the time many people had thought whales were mute, but the record actually showed them to be majestic and magnificent creatures whose vocal sounds are an amazing and wonderful listening experience. It also helped people to realize that these intelligent creatures ought to be protected from hunters, thus inspiring the "Save The Whales" movement.

  • In mythology involving the Amazon River dolphin seems to portray them as similar to The Fair Folk; they are said to shapeshift into beautiful people in order to seduce humans, whisk them away and can curse people with lifelong nightmares.
  • Inverted for the most part in Polynesian mythologies; whales and dolphins are little more than basically sea cattle to be eaten, while sharks, seabirds and even some fish are totemic symbols and depicted as sapient.
  • In more "modern" mythology/conspiracy theories, some have expressed the theory the so-called "Greys" are not actually extraterrestrial but the cetacean convergent evolution to humanity. Such theory obviously has more than its fair share of counter-dialog but is an example of this trope applied probably beyond its real-world boundaries.

    New Media 
  • The Onion parodied this with the article "Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs: 'Oh, Shit,' Says Humanity". The article is then filled with stories of the Dolphins' incredibly rapid technology development, and marine biologists committing suicide or preparing to serve the Dolphin overlords.
  • Orion's Arm: Dolphins were one the earliest animal species to be uplifted, or "provolved", to sapience. They are quite common, living on oceanic worlds and aquatic habitats all over the terragen sphere. There are also several genetically recreated and provolved whales on Old Earth, known as "Gaian whales".

  • As in the movie, Johnny Mnemonic has James, a military-trained cyborg-enhanced dolphin, who appears next to the left ramp.

  • Season two of Old Harry's Game reveals that dolphins are the only non-human species that have sufficient understanding of their actions to be damned. Episode 2 features the most evil dolphin who ever lived, Chuckles.
  • Subverted in a John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme skit, in which a scientist devotes his life to creating a machine to translate whalesong, only to learn that all they ever say is "Hi! I'm a whale!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller: Issue 6 of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society has an article on dolphins genetically engineered to have higher intelligence, up to 13 (with the human average being 7). Some of them can learn human languages.
  • Rifts: Rifts Underseas allows you to have a dolphin, orca, or humpback whale as a player character. They even have Powered Armor designed for Dolphins and Orcas to use. There are also the Pneuma-Biforms, Cetaceans mutated by an Eldritch Abomination to be slaves, and have the ability to switch between Human and Cetacean forms. This allows a player to be a Dolphin or Whale, but also participate in land-based adventures as well (as long as they keep a large water tank handy).
  • GURPS:
    • Transhuman Space has the deep-sea sourcebook Under Pressure. On the one hand there are "Cetanists"; "Ghosts" and A.I.s who believe in the intelligence and spirituality of whales and dolphins, and express this by wearing dolphin bioshells (biological bodies that can run an AI or Ghost) and joining a pod. On the other hand, there are actual dolphins; who are certainly bright enough that translator software works, but are also bullies, mildly sociopathic and, in short, wild animals. And on the third hand there are Doolittles and Delphi; dolphins who've been uplifted, but who often have the same "personality disorders" (by human standards) as their wild kin. They also find Cetanists a bit disturbing. And then there's Coak, a Delphi who wishes he was a normal dolphin to the extent that he now runs an anti-uplift terrorist organisation.
    • Uplift: In the tabletop adaptation, Fins (uplifted dolphins) are a playable species, complete with the tech from the books that lets them operate out of water.
  • Blue Planet revolves around a water planet named Poseidon that's colonized by genetically modified humans and sapient cetaceans.
  • In Blue Rose, you can play a sapient, telepathic dolphin PC, or play a human who has one as a Bond Creature.
  • One early RPG inspired by Niven's Known Space novels omitted rules for dolphin characters, but an article in Dragon corrected that, introducing such necessities as water-filled space suits and strap-on robotic arms.
  • Some editions of Dungeons & Dragons have depicted dolphins as sentient Good-aligned creatures with their own patron goddess.
  • Eclipse Phase has uplifted cetaceans, though they're not featured in the core rulebook (appearing in the Panopticon supplement) as few of them made it off earth before the Fall (especially the large baleen whales). Many who escaped as infomorphs had to resleeve in human morphs or the Suryas adapted to the sun.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones dolphins were officially recognized as sapient by many governments, though that meant little more than protection from fishing in most cases. But there was some controversy about using them in the Vector project as none of the other species they were splicing with human genes had their own cultures and societies. But, after Earth was sterilized in the Terra Firma/Corptown war they went with it anyways, and Vectorized dolphins are a common sight in the oceans of terraformed Mars, Venus, and Europa.

  • Paul Zindel's play Let Me Hear You Whisper features a dolphin in a lab that learns to talk out of its blowhole. However, at first it only talks to the cleaning lady.

    Video Games 
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Every dolphin is shown capable of advanced speech among other dolphins and other aquatic species, conveying complex ideas, and family units. Ecco also has to learn about the world, travelling to the frozen north, the deep ocean, Atlantis, through time, and even to an alien world. This is all part of his quest to learn about and stop an alien invasion. The series also involves solving notoriously challenging puzzles when playing as Ecco.
  • In The Fermi Paradox, it is possible for dolphins to evolve to be the dominant lifeform on Earth rather than humans if the player wants. They start out more benevolent than humanity at 20% Utopia, and gain technological progress faster, in addition to having more resources, however, their population starts out smaller.
  • In Aero Fighters 2, Spanky is a dolphin who pilots a YF-23 fighter jet. He calls himself "the world's first dolphin pilot" and fries over jungles. He's back as a semi-hidden character in Aero Fighters Assault, this time flying an X-29 armed with Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • The Stellaris Aquatic Species Pack DLC adds a race of anthropomorphic dolphins you can encounter or play as.
  • Sword of the Stars; the Liir are a race of starfaring telepathic cetaceans. The young Liir look more like dolphins, while the Elders look like whales (only much bigger). The Liir keep growing as they age and have a, theoretically, unlimited lifespan. However, at a certain age, the Square-Cube Law goes into effect, and the Elder is crushed by its own weight. Unless, of course, they enslave the Liir race and force them to build a massive spacesuit that it can use to survive indefinitely.
  • Critical Depth: The Cephalopod race intended for dolphins to rule the earth. In one ending, they are dismayed to find humans have taken over after millions of years, and vow to fix the situation.
  • Zombie Wars: A dolphin is one of the crew members. He wears a suit of power armor to get around on land, push buttons, and wield assault rifles.
  • EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus features a number of ocean creatures that are able to communicate with the human protagonist. The first one he meets is an injured dolphin named Delphineus.
  • Insaniquarium: Blip the Porpoise is highly intelligent and possesses powerful psychic powers. He is notably able to tell which fishes are hungry, how much life aliens have during a battle and precisely predict the area at which aliens will appear.
  • Jett Rocket has Rudolpho, an old friend of Jett's. He's a be-helmeted space dolphin. He just is. But he's cool.
  • Blue Planet has uplifted dolphins and whales. Given that the planet the game is set on is almost completely covered in water, it's pretty much a given that they'd be there.
  • X: According to the X-Encyclopedia, one of the planets in the Kingdom of Boron has a native species of sapient whales.

  • In UNA Frontiers, one of the main characters is Cyberna, an AI built in a (mostly) dolphin shape to act as a human/dolphin interface. Having spent time with them in their own element, she has few illusions about their actual nature, but she is capable of teaching them "civilized manners" just the same.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Dolphins are not only intelligent, they also remember. And can apparently use firearms.
  • Skin Horse:
    • Hugey P. is a whale gangster rapper. Amusingly, his record label is run by a Weirdness Censor-equipped hippy, who thinks Killa Whale Drive-By is a regular whale song CD.
    • There's also Mr Squeakers, a dolphin who is a Transgenic League representative and talks in textspeak. He also runs a Subway franchise, somehow.
  • Girl Genius: The Great Cetaceans are unfathomably intelligent whales from the deepest parts of the ocean who are worshipped by the Fish People, and find thinking down to a human-equivalent level difficult. They're also bioluminescent, and so huge that regular whales travelling alongside them look like minnows. They support entire ecosystems within them.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In the "Treehouse of Horror XI" segment "Night of the Dolphin", dolphins invade the land and take over. They can speak English.
    Snorky: [in high pitched voice] Snorky... talk... man... [clears throat and reverts to deep male voice] I'm sorry, let me start over. Eons ago, dolphins lived on the land. Then your ancestors drove us into the sea, where we suffered for millions of years. I, King Snorky, hereby banish all humans to the sea!
  • American Dad! reveals the CIA has a program that trains dolphins to help on missions and in turn they teach humans to speak dolphin, which Steve has picked up after years of being brought to the lab by Stan. Stan believes this is neat, but Steve complains that all dolphins ever talk about is fish. Later in the episode, this ability comes in handy for Steve, as he asks dolphins to save him, but in the end he just ends up getting pissed off because the dolphins won't shut up about mackerel.
  • Mister Smarty Smarts from Spliced is an evil Dolphin/Chimpanzee mutant.
  • Dr. Blowhole, archenemy of The Penguins of Madagascar, is an Evil Genius bent on having his revenge on humanity for the humiliation he has suffered jumping through flaming hoops on Coney Island. Definitely not friendly or heroic.
  • The Tick: "The Tick vs Nevada" featured a dolphin who, like Blowhole, wanted to conquer mankind rather than amuse it.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch shows that dolphins were able to send one of their own to the moon, he just didn't survive the trip.
    Dolphin Scientist: Not so f***ing smart now, are we? I am going ba-aaa-ck to the sea!
  • Referenced, but not shown in Squidbillies. When a group of sapient, deep-fried birds takes over Dan Halen's factorynote , Dan Halen comments on their intelligence. The bird's leader thanks him, noting that while they aren't as smart as dolphins, they do work their asses off.

...So long, and thanks for all the tropes!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sapient Whale, Sapient Dolphin, Smart Cetaceans, Smart Dolphins, Smart Whales, Sapient Dolphins


Willie the Operatic Whale

Willie the whale can not only talk but is a master opera singer. He can even sing in three voices.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / SapientCetaceans

Media sources: