Scientists say dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'
2010 01 05
By Jonathan Leake | TimesOnline.co.uk
Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.
Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals
but many researchers had placed them below chimps.
Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence.
The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.
“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 zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, 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.
Dolphins have long been recognised 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 behavioural 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.
It has also become clear that they are “cultural” animals, meaning that new types of behaviour can quickly be picked up by one dolphin from another.
In one study, Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognise themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes.
In another, she found that captive animals also had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language.
Other research has shown dolphins can solve difficult problems, while those living in the wild co-operate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication.
In one recent case, a dolphin rescued from the wild was taught to tail-walk while recuperating for three weeks in a dolphinarium in Australia.
After she was released, scientists were astonished to see the trick spreading among wild dolphins who had learnt it from the former captive.
There are many similar examples, such as the way dolphins living off Western Australia learnt to hold sponges over their snouts to protect themselves when searching for spiny fish on the ocean floor.
Such observations, along with others showing, for example, how dolphins could co-operate with military precision to round up shoals of fish to eat, have prompted questions about the brain structures that must underlie them.
Size is only one factor. Researchers have found that brain size varies hugely from around 7oz for smaller cetacean species such as the Ganges River dolphin to more than 19lb for sperm whales, whose brains are the largest on the planet. Human brains, by contrast, range from 2lb-4lb, while a chimp’s brain is about 12oz.
When it comes to intelligence, however, brain size is less important than its size relative to the body.
What Marino and her colleagues found was that the cerebral cortex and neocortex of bottlenose dolphins were so large that “the anatomical ratios that assess cognitive capacity place it second only to the human brain”. They also found that the brain cortex of dolphins such as the bottlenose had the same convoluted folds that are strongly linked with human intelligence.
Such folds increase the volume of the cortex and the ability of brain cells to interconnect with each other. “Despite evolving along a different neuroanatomical trajectory to humans, cetacean brains have several features that are correlated with complex intelligence,” Marino said.
Marino and Reiss will present their findings at a conference in San Diego, California, next month, concluding that the new evidence about dolphin intelligence makes it morally repugnant to mistreat them.
Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, who has written a series of academic studies suggesting dolphins should have rights, will speak at the same conference.
“The scientific research . . . suggests that dolphins are ‘non-human persons’ who qualify for moral standing as individuals,” he said.
Article from: TimesOnline.co.uk
The Language of Dolphins
Video from: YouTube.com
Dubai's Atlantis hotel opening marred by dolphin row
Major military exercise staged days before 26 dolphins died
Theories and rumours abound as scientists ponder mystery of mass dolphin deaths
Mystery of dolphin mass stranding
Dolphin answers whales' SOS call
The effect of belief on intelligence
Psychology of Intelligence Analysis
Latest News from our Front Page
New Report: Unregulated Contaminants Common in Drinking Water
2013 12 05
Traces of 18 unregulated chemicals were found in drinking water from more than one-third of U.S. water utilities in a nationwide sampling, according to new, unpublished research by federal scientists. Included are 11 perfluorinated chemicals, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial compound, a metal and an antidepressant.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed ...
Unarmed man charged with assault after cops shoot at him but wound bystanders instead
2013 12 05
A grand jury indicted an unarmed, emotionally disturbed man on assault charges after police opened fire on him near New York City’s Times Square and wounded two bystanders.
Investigators said 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance Sept. 14 by lurching into traffic and lunging toward oncoming cars.
Police arrived as a crowd gathered at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and ...
The Kardashian 2013 Christmas Card: A Tribute to the Illuminati Entertainment Industry
2013 12 05
If there was an award for the less Christmas-y Christmas card in the History of the world, I believe that the 2013 Kardashian Christmas card would take the prize. Shot by elite fashion photographer David Lachapelle, the card is a rather grim and depressing summation of the entertainment world – an industry ruled by a shadowy elite that is turning ...
Oldest-ever human DNA found in 400,000-year-old ‘Pit of Bones’ poses evolutionary mystery
2013 12 05
Scientists have reached farther back than ever into the ancestry of humans to recover and analyze DNA, using a bone found in Spain that’s estimated to be 400,000 years old. So far, the achievement has provided more questions than answers about our ancient forerunners.
The feat surpasses the previous age record of about 100,000 years for genetic material recovered from members ...
Canada Seeks to Claim North Pole
2013 12 05
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has instructed government bureaucrats to include the North Pole in the country’s Arctic claim to be submitted to the United Nations.
Canada has considered the inclusion of the geographic North Pole in order to extend its northern sea boundary for seabed riches in the Arctic, the daily Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday.
|More News » |