Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do dolphins deserve special status?

From the London Times:

"Dolphins have long been recognized as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioral studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

"'Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size,' said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates.

"'The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,' she added."

Marino and colleagues will present new evidence about dolphin intelligence at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, set for Feb. 18-22 in San Diego.

Marino worked on a 2001 study demonstrating mirror recognition in bottlenose dolphins (see photo), a cognitive trait shared by only a few mammals outside of humans.

Marino's work is also featured in Discovery News.

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