Are These 8 Ways Dolphins Are Like Humans 8 Reasons We Should Free Them?

05/12/2011

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It seems the more we humans study dolphins, the more human-like we  find them to be -- and the more trouble we have with the idea of keeping them in captivity.

We always think of primates like chimpanzees as our closest relatives in terms of human intelligence, but in fact dolphins surpass them in many ways. Some recent findings:

1. Dolphins recognize their own reflections -- Researchers tattooed  dolphins in places the animals couldn’t see, then put a mirror in  their tank and watched the dolphins check out the marks on their own 
bodies, as if to see how they looked. VIDEO: Uniqueness of Dolphin Fins
2. They can understand artificial languages -- Scientists proved  dolphins could interpret languages based on electronic sounds and hand  gestures, even understanding rules of constructing sentences -- or their equivalent.
3. They comprehend human pointing - Chimps can’t do that!
4. They can create novel behaviors on command.
5. They can use tools.
6. They even have been found to have cultural traditions.
7. Based on body size, they have the second biggest brains on Earth 
(between humans and chimps).
8. The dolphin brain's neocortex is complex. This is the area associated with problem-solving, self-awareness and processing emotions.

VIDEO: Dolphin Emotions (Or... When Dolphins Get Angry)

MORE: Are Dolphins Smarter Than Apes?

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As recently reported in Science Magazine, the dolphin research community has split into two camps: those who feel it's ethically wrong to keep these highly intelligent animals locked up in water parks and research facilities and those who think it's necessary to study dolphin intelligence to know more about them  -- that, and perhaps it's not so bad in captivity after all.

A study also found that dolphins in captivity have a death rate of  5.6-7.4% compared with 3.9% in the wild -- a finding questioned by  supporters of captive research, who also say that between government  regulations, reproduction stats and important studies like noise  pollution, captive research outweighs any negatives.

VIDEO: Secrets of Dolphin Swimming (Studied in Captivity)

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And of course, these 8 findings came from studies of animals in  captivity. But some scientists are fighting to keep all studies in the wild with animals that "decide" to work with them -- an effort that  was recently successful in showing how dolphin mothers teach calves to fish.

VIDEO: Dolphin Sex and Calves

So which side do you come down on?

Given the findings about dolphin intelligence, is it cruel to keep  them in captivity or is captive research necessary to understanding  and protecting them? Can you do without dolphin shows or do you think  they seem happy to perform for us? We’d love to hear from you. Enter your comments below.


Related Links

Can Dolphins Bond With Humans?
Anatomy of a Dolphin
Explore Our Dolphin Guide
VIDEO: Ultimate Guide to Dolphins

Credits: Jeffrey L. Rotman/CORBIS | Photodisc/Thinkstock | iStockphoto/Thinkstock |


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