Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Dolphins Should be Treated as Non-Human People." Scientists Say

Bottlenose dolphin breaching

Recently, scientists and researchers had found that dolphins are so bright and intelligent that they should be treated as "non-human people." Studies of the animals' behavior have shown that their communications are similar to those of humans, making them brighter than chimpanzees. The studies were backed up by anatomical research indicating that dolphins' brains have several key features affiliated with human intelligence. Based on their findings, researchers even argue that it is morally inhumane to keep dolphins in amusement parks, or even hunt them for food. According to Lori Marino, a zoologist at Atlanta's Emory University, a dolphin's brain is second in mass to a human brain. Initially, dolphins were placed below chimpanzees in terms of intelligence levels. Studies had shown that they have the intelligence of a three-year-old child. But recent studies have suggested that dolphins, especially the bottlenose species, have distinct personalities: a strong sense of self and can think about the future. A study by Diana Reiss, a psychology professor at Hunter College, showed that bottlenose dolphins could recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to check various parts of their bodies. Another study found that they had the ability to learn a rudimentary symbol-based language. Such observations also led to questions on what makes the dolphins' intelligence unique. The major factor is the brain itself. Marino and her colleagues had found that the cerebral cortex and neocortex of a bottlenose dolphin were so large that the anatomical ratios place the brain second to humans. The brain's cortex was also found to have the same convoluted folds strongly linked to human intelligence.

It is absolutely amazing to see how a mammal species completely different from us can actually possess certain similarities unknown before. This news, in my opinion, is a clear representation of how we are closely related to a mammal species in terms of intelligence and not by appearance. Earlier, it was believed that people had evolved from monkeys and apes which is true. That is, they have opposable thumbs and are similar regarding their skull structures and other evolutionary physiological factors. However, in the case of dolphins, their brains have recently found to have physiological similarities which makes them closely related to humans. A similar story like this was when a photographer from Chicago captured an image of a wolf in Alaska catching salmon like its distant relative, the grizzly bear. Though both of these animals are distinctly related, it appears that they do share some behavioral similarities. I feel that what was found in the case of dolphins and humans would be a great topic for scientists and researchers to study and learn more about what makes both of the species closely related to each other

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