During this important period, older dolphins teach their younger counterparts skills and other learned behaviors -- making them one of the few animals other than humans to possess a culture. Researchers say that some pods of bottlenose dolphins have been observed demonstrating tool use to their calves, like in holding a sea sponge to protect their snout while foraging for food.
Likewise among humans, the knowledge acquired in these early formative years is critical for their survival, and with working collectively for the benefit of the whole.
Research suggests that, also like humans, dolphins possess a sense of self-awareness -- credited in part to their large, complex brains which bear striking similarities to ours.
Although it may be impossible to know for certain to how dolphin intelligence and consciousness compares with our own, numerous studies have found that they are capable of performing complex tasks and appear to recognize themselves as individuals.
"We went from seeing the dolphin/whale brain as being a giant amorphous blob that doesn't carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to not only being an enormous brain but an enormous brain with an enormous amount of complexity, and a complexity that rivals our own," says Emory University psychologist Dr Lori Marino, to the BBC.