Humans have long held themselves as a species apart. It’s a cross-cultural theory of exceptionalism, held as tightly in Chengdu, China as Chicago, United States. As the canniest, most productive and most dominant species on the planet, we allow ourselves dominion over all other creatures, great and small. We spray great swaths of land with insecticides to kill mosquitoes that threaten our health. We live-capture juvenile whales to be trained for our entertainment. After all, human welfare is paramount, and those other creatures aren’t believed capable of feeling depressed, isolated or endangered.
This point was driven home with a strangely retrograde vote in the UK’s House of Commons last November. In the course of Brexit negotiations, Members of Parliament were tasked with choosing which EU policies they will adhere to as the UK withdraws from the EU. They elected to bow out of a law recognizing animal sentience. MPs later called this claim a mischaracterization, because public outrage was dramatic — denying sentience denies that animals can feel pain, form thoughts, or experience any emotion.
The first time children can recognize themselves in a mirror is a significant developmental milestone. However, a new study has found that young bottlenose dolphins reach this stage sooner than human infants.
Human babies typically develop self-awareness, or the ability to recognize that the reflection in a mirror is themselves and not just another baby, around 12–18 months. In contrast, according to a study published this month in PLOS One, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) gain this awareness around seven months.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the extent that women must confront unwanted male attention is at the forefront of our consciousness. But a new study released in October shows that human females are not the only ones that must fend off unwanted advances. In a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists found that bottlenose dolphins have evolved to protect themselves from fertilization from some of their male counterparts.
Male bottlenose dolphins form alliances of two to four dolphins in order to keep competitors away from females. When a female dolphin confronts such an alliance, the female often has no choice who she will mate with, and may mate with all of them.
Have you ever felt tired, restless or groggy after what you thought was a full night’s rest in a new place? Or perhaps jumped out of a hotel bed fully-awake at the slightest disturbance? A new study explains that this might be because your brain just pulled an all-nighter of guard duty — half of your brain that is.
The phenomenon is called interhemispheric asymmetry and it was first observed by scientists studying the first-night effect (FNE) in the sleeping patterns of 11 people over the course of two nights. FNE is something we have all experienced, when we have troubling sleeping well in a novel or unfamiliar environment, and until now, scientists have long considered this a normal and typical sleep disturbance.
Scientists have spent decades listening to the whistles, clicks and squeaks that dolphins use to communicate. Interestingly, it turns out that these complex marine mammals may have a language that is similar to ours. A team of Russian researchers has recently recorded the first ever “conversation” between two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, which suggests that dolphins use grammatical tools similar to the ones used in human speech. The researchers state they string together words into sentences, and don’t interrupt each other while speaking.