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  • 1/16/2011

Blindfolded dolphins can imitate

dolphins

Researchers say even blindfolded dolphins can imitate the behavior of other dolphins, an ability which makes them the world's best imitators after humans.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, dolphins can use senses other than sight to figure out the movements of other dolphins.

Researchers at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, who blindfolded a seven-year-old bottlenose dolphin named Tanner, found that he could copy other dolphins even though his sight was blocked.

Scientists hope to learn more about the evolution of human cognition by mapping “the dolphin mind.”

"Looking at an animal (which is) so far removed from us and yet shares some cognitive abilities, tells us something about us," Reuters quoted research director of the non-profit center Dr. Kelly Jaakkola as saying.

Not many animals are capable of imitating, she said, adding that although some primates such as chimpanzees can sometimes do it, only humans and dolphins are proficient.

"Most people think, 'Monkey see, monkey do.' It’s a complete myth. Dolphins are really good at it. Aside from humans, they’re the best at it," Jaakkola explained.

Researchers tested Tanner repeatedly on 31 different behavioral traits in sessions spread over 11 weeks, but he could imitate the behavior of other dolphins far more often than would be expected by chance.

The blindfolded Tanner could imitate 75 percent of the vocal behavior with accuracy, as well as 41 percent of the motor behavior and 50 percent of combined behavior.

"That level of flexibility in imitation has never been seen in a non-human animal," Jaakkola said, adding that Tanner was selected because he "really loves playing games" and was comfortable with eyecups.

The finding is significant due to the fact that Tanner was born in captivity and only wild dolphins are known to imitate each other.

According to Jaakkola, dolphins can also copy each other’s distinctive signature whistles, which act as names.

They announce their presence by calling out their own name and imitate another’s whistle to call to that animal, she said.

Dolphins make a variety of other whistles and clicks but Jaakkola could not say for sure that the other dolphins had not told Tanner which trick to perform.

"Nobody’s been able to find any sort of meaning in (their sounds). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist," she said.

Source: presstv.ir

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