15+ Smartest Animals In The Ocean [With Photos]

The ocean houses a variety of remarkable creatures, some of which are highly intelligent. While many people know about dolphins being considered the smartest ocean animal, plenty of other creatures are on this list. This article will cover the 15+ smartest animals in the ocean.

15+ Smartest Animals in the Ocean

Here are the details of the more than 15 smartest ocean creatures. Read to know about them. But first, give a look at the chart.

Smartest Sea AnimalsInteresting Fact
DolphinDolphins have the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors, indicating a high level of self-awareness.
WhaleSome whales have been known to use complex hunting techniques, such as bubble netting, where they blow bubbles to trap and corral fish.
OctopuseOctopuses have the ability to camouflage themselves to match their surroundings, making them excellent at avoiding predators.
OrcaOrcas are highly social and communicate with one another using a complex system of clicks and whistles.
Sea otterSea otters are the only marine mammals that use tools, such as rocks, to crack open the shells of their prey.
Sea lionSea lions have highly developed spatial reasoning abilities, allowing them to navigate complex environments both on land and in the water.
SharkSharks have highly sensitive electroreceptor organs called ampullae of Lorenzini, which allow them to detect even the slightest electrical fields in the water.
StingrayStingrays have specialized organs called ampullae of Lorenzini that enable them to detect electrical signals, which they use to locate prey buried in the sand.
CuttlefishCuttlefish have the ability to change both the color and texture of their skin in order to blend in with their surroundings.
SquidSquid have three hearts and blue blood, which contains a copper-rich protein called hemocyanin that helps transport oxygen throughout their bodies.
TunaTuna are powerful swimmers and have been known to swim at speeds of up to 43 miles per hour.
SalmonSalmon have the remarkable ability to navigate back to the exact stream where they were born in order to spawn.
Manta rayManta rays have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any cold-blooded fish, which may contribute to their advanced problem-solving abilities.
JellyfishJellyfish are not actually fish, but are instead classified as plankton. They have no brain, heart, or bones.
EelEels have a keen sense of smell and use it to navigate through murky waters and locate prey.
PiranhaPiranhas are known for their sharp teeth and fierce reputation, but they are actually omnivores and mostly feed on plant material.



The dolphin takes the first position in the list of smartest ocean creatures. They are highly social creatures, living in pods and communicating with each other through clicks and whistles. Dolphins have an advanced memory capacity, enabling them to recognize individuals in their pod and potential threats from afar.

Moreover, with an estimated IQ of 45, dolphins are among the most intelligent marine mammals and among the smartest animals on Earth. The dolphin’s brain is nearly five times larger than average for a mammal its size, according to estimates.

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Also, in captivity, dolphins have been seen performing tricks, such as spinning in circles and balancing balls on their noses.



Whales are large, social mammals. They have a complex language and communication system that is used to communicate with other whales in their pod. When whale songs spread, they can get very loud in the ocean.

Like dolphins, whales also possess an advanced memory capacity. For example, humpback whales have been known to remember patterns from one year to the next. Again according to Pierre Béland, beluga whales are highly trainable due to their high intelligence, composure, and openness to new experiences.

Whales also have large brains and high levels of emotional intelligence. Several studies even show narwhals have a high IQ. The narwhal’s brain is almost the same size as that of a human’s, and like humans, it allows the animal to recognize itself in a mirror and pass on knowledge to future generations.

Whales show signs of grief and mourning when they are separated from their family or experience the death of a close companion, suggesting that they have complex emotions and feelings.



Octopuses are the intelligent pranksters of the sea. They have highly advanced problem-solving skills and can sometimes outsmart their predators. They use a variety of tools to achieve their goals, including rocks and shells they take from the ocean floor.

As observed in lab experiments, Octopuses have an amazing ability to learn and remember. They can also use their tentacles to feel the texture of objects and distinguish between different shapes, colors, and sizes.

According to Jon, octopuses have proven their intellect in a variety of situations. They’ve navigated mazes and finished complicated tasks in lab studies for tasty treats. They are also quite skilled at opening and closing lids on containers. There are also fascinating accounts about the tricks and shenanigans of octopuses.

Orca (Killer Whale)


Orca or killer whale belongs to the dolphin family. Among all dolphins, they are considered the smartest. They have a sophisticated social structure, with each pod consisting of a matriarch and their offspring. Orcas are also highly vocal and use complex communication for activities such as hunting or mating.

Orcas are also capable of problem-solving, recognizing and responding to human signals, and, in some cases, even appearing to show empathy. They have also been observed teaching younger generations how to catch their prey.

Also, orcas have great long-term memories, and some studies suggest that their brains are even more complex than those of dolphins. They also possess the ability to mimic a wide range of sounds and voices, as well as recognize their own reflections in mirrors.

Sea Otter

Sea Otters

Sea otters are also smart marine mammals that use tools. They often use rocks to crack open shells and can even make tools out of bits of seaweed or other debris they find in the ocean. They also possess a keen sense of touch and can detect small prey with their sensitive whiskers.

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Sea otters have been observed using stones to forage for food or even working together to break open shells. They also have highly developed communication systems, including using different sounds and smells.

In addition, sea otters are quite intelligent regarding problem-solving and decision-making. They can quickly adapt to changing environmental conditions, showing higher levels of intelligence than most other marine mammals.

Also, sea otters possess amazing memories, with some studies showing them remembering things they’ve learned up to seven years in the past. They use their memories to remember the locations of food sources and which areas are unsafe for swimming. These animals have even proved themselves capable of planning ahead by storing food for use later.

Sea Lion

sea lion

Sea lions are also very social animals with an impressive level of intelligence. They communicate using a wide range of distinct calls, sounds, facial expressions, and gestures. Studies have also shown that sea lions can recognize individual calls, suggesting they can pick out their own specific names within the group.

Sea lions can learn complex tasks and can remember them for up to two years. They have also been observed using various strategies to solve problems, such as practicing different techniques until they find a successful solution.

According to Highfill, sea lions may have the cognitive ability necessary to lay the groundwork for a theory of mind. Even though sea lions can’t use their hands to point, they seem to pick up on the concept quickly when humans do it.



Sharks are often considered apex predators of the sea but can also be quite intelligent. Sharks have excellent memories and can recognize individuals, showing remarkable intelligence. 

They also possess a good sense of smell and electric sensing capabilities that help them detect prey in murky waters. Sharks display impressive problem-solving skills, able to quickly alter their behavior in response to environmental changes. 

In addition, sharks use various communication methods, including sound waves and body language. Scientists have also discovered that some species of sharks can distinguish between different types of music, suggesting they may even be able to recognize patterns.



Stingrays may not be as well-known for their intelligence as some other marine animals, but they possess impressive cognitive abilities. They show advanced problem-solving skills and can learn to recognize objects or people. Stingrays also have an excellent memory, remembering objects up to five years after first seeing them.

Stingrays are also highly social animals and use complex communication systems, including different sounds and body language. For example, they may use their tails to indicate submission or dominance in a group.

Stingrays have an impressive ability to sense through touch and can pick up on very small prey using their sensitive whiskers. They have the capability to use tools such as rocks or coral reefs to open shells and find food. Additionally, they can recognize the calls of other stingrays and respond appropriately to identify members of their own species.



As cuttlefish have no external defenses, they must rely on their superior intelligence and camouflage to avoid being eaten. Because compared to their physical size, cuttlefish have comparatively large brains, making them one of the most intelligent invertebrates studied thus far.

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Cuttlefish can remember complex tasks for up to their last few days of life and can learn from observation. They also use a wide range of communication methods, including arms displays and skin texture changes.

In addition, cuttlefish have an impressive ability to recognize facial expressions, shapes, colors, and patterns. They can even distinguish between objects’ size, shape, and color to assess their value as food. Cuttlefish have also been observed using tools in order to gain access to food sources, demonstrating an impressive level of problem-solving abilities.



Squids possess large brains with a higher brain-to-body mass ratio than most other animals, including primates. That’s why they are on this list. However, they are not super smart like dolphins, octopuses, and cuttlefish.

But, according to some researchers, squids are highly intelligent creatures comparable to dogs. This belief is due to their social nature and impressive ability to communicate with each other. They exhibit remarkable problem-solving skills and even use objects like rocks or shells to access their prey.

Squids also have excellent memories and can remember objects for up to four weeks after seeing them. They can even use their tentacles to distinguish between two different types of food, indicating a good level of intelligence.



Tuna are among the most intelligent fish in the ocean, exhibiting impressive problem-solving and learning abilities. Studies have shown that they can recognize shapes and colors and even remember them for up to a year after first seeing them.

Bluefin tuna have a reputation among fishermen for being very smart and adept at figuring out and countering fishing strategies. They are highly social animals and use visual and acoustic communication to communicate with other tuna.

Tuna also has a strong sense of direction and can remember routes they’ve traveled in the past, demonstrating an impressive level of intelligence. They are particularly adept hunters, using complex strategies to locate and capture their prey efficiently.



Salmon is also very smart in their environment. They are social learners with the ability to remember and recognize one another. Some creatures employ tools, once assumed to be exclusively human, and others obtain information by eavesdropping.

Salmon can recognize objects and even other salmon for up to two years after first being exposed. They can also remember their migration routes over long distances and often return to their home rivers every year, demonstrating impressive intelligence.

Furthermore, salmon possess a strong sense of smell that guides them along their migratory paths and helps them to find food. This skill is so advanced that they can even detect the slightest changes in water temperature, allowing them to identify predators or potential prey.

Manta ray

Manta Ray

Manta rays are the largest ray species and have impressive intelligence. They exhibit complex behaviors, including social learning, problem-solving skills, and communication habits.

They have been observed using tools such as rocks to access food sources and use cooperative hunting strategies with other manta rays. They also engage in complex social interactions and have the ability to recognize human divers, indicating a high level of intelligence.

Manta rays also possess strong memories. Their impressive cognitive skills make them among the most intelligent animals in the ocean.



Although jellyfish may not appear intelligent, they have demonstrated remarkable problem-solving skills. These skills include the ability to differentiate between various shapes and colors and to use their tentacles to evaluate objects as either potential mates or food sources.

Studies have also shown that jellyfish can remember particular routes within their environment and respond to light stimuli in order to avoid predators. This indicates an impressive level of intelligence, particularly when because jellyfish have no brains or central nervous systems.



Eels are highly intelligent creatures that possess an impressive range of cognitive abilities. They are social animals and use signals such as sound and light to communicate with each other. 

Eels have been known to remember particular routes within their environment and can even recognize individual humans. Studies have also shown that eels can learn complex behaviors, indicating a high level of intelligence.



Piranhas are deadly and have high intelligence, and are capable of advanced social behavior. They have a sophisticated social hierarchy and often hunt in groups for their prey. While most reside in freshwater, some (Red Bellied Piranha) also inhabit coastal areas.

They can remember the location of food sources and will take turns catching their prey, demonstrating impressive intelligence. Piranhas are also thought to be able to identify individual members in their shoals and respond to visual cues. This indicates a higher cognitive ability than previously thought.


Hopefully, you have a compact idea of the 16 smartest sea creatures. If you want to know more about them or if you have any queries, just keep your question in the comment box. I will answer them as soon as possible.

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