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In fact, when it comes to creating games, dolphins know few rivals. Many of them enjoy a game of catch, perhaps with a fish or even a turtle, throwing the animal back and forth to each other. Then there are activities that remind us of our games of tag. One dolphin will nudge another a few times to indicate its willingness for a game, then high-speed pursuit will take place through the sea, as they take turns chasing each other.


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Long-term social memory is important, because it is an ecologically relevant test of cognitive capacity, it helps us understand which social relationships are remembered and it relates two seemingly disparate disciplines: cognition and sociality. For dolphins, long-term memory for conspecifics could help assess social threats as well as potential social or hunting alliances in a very fluid and complex fission-fusion social system, yet we have no idea how long dolphins can remember each other. Through a playback study conducted within a multi-institution dolphin breeding consortium (where animals are moved between different facilities), recognition of unfamiliar versus familiar signature whistles of former tank mates was assessed. This research shows that dolphins have the potential for lifelong memory for each other regardless of relatedness, sex or duration of association. This is, to my knowledge, the first study to show that social recognition can last for at least 20 years in a non-human species and the first large-scale study to address long-term memory in a cetacean. These results, paired with evidence from elephants and humans, provide suggestive evidence that sociality and cognition could be related, as a good memory is necessary in a fluid social system.

After all, they're often busy with the tightest of all bonds between dolphins, that between mother and calf. Then of course, during mating season - which goes from April to August, perhaps longer - the fertile females are often being pursued by male dolphins, working in groups, with one shared goal in mind.

Blubber is found within the dermis and subcutis layer. The dermis blends gradually with the adipose layer, which is known as fat, because the fat may extend up to the epidermis border and collagen fiber bundles extend throughout the whole subcutaneous blubber which is fat found under the skin.[43] The thickness of the subcutaneous blubber or fat depends on the dolphin's health, development, location, reproductive state, and how well it feeds. This fat is thickest on the dolphin's back and belly. Most of the dolphin's body fat is accumulated in a thick layer of blubber. Blubber differs from fat in that, in addition to fat cells, it contains a fibrous network of connective tissue.[45]

A dolphin ear has specific adaptations to the marine environment. In humans, the middle ear works as an impedance equalizer between the outside air's low impedance and the cochlear fluid's high impedance. In dolphins, and other marine mammals, there is no great difference between the outer and inner environments. Instead of sound passing through the outer ear to the middle ear, dolphins receive sound through the throat, from which it passes through a low-impedance fat-filled cavity to the inner ear. The ear is acoustically isolated from the skull by air-filled sinus pockets, which allow for greater directional hearing underwater.[55] Dolphins send out high frequency clicks from an organ known as a melon. This melon consists of fat, and the skull of any such creature containing a melon will have a large depression. This allows dolphins to use echolocation for orientation.[35][56][57][58][59] Though most dolphins do not have hair, they do have hair follicles that may perform some sensory function.[60] Beyond locating an object, echolocation also provides the animal with an idea on an object's shape and size, though how exactly this works is not yet understood.[61] The small hairs on the rostrum of the boto (river dolphins of South America) are believed to function as a tactile sense, possibly to compensate for the boto's poor eyesight.[62]

Dolphins are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme, and grieve.[64] The neocortex of many species is home to elongated spindle neurons that, prior to 2007, were known only in hominids.[65] In humans, these cells are involved in social conduct, emotions, judgment, and theory of mind.[66] Cetacean spindle neurons are found in areas of the brain that are analogous to where they are found in humans, suggesting that they perform a similar function.[67]

In Shark Bay, Australia, dolphins catch fish by trapping them in huge conch shells.[109] In "shelling", a dolphin brings the shell to the surface and shakes it, so that fish sheltering within fall into the dolphin's mouth. From 2007 to 2018, in 5,278 encounters with dolphins, researchers observed 19 dolphins shelling 42 times. The behavior spreads mainly within generations, rather than being passed from mother to offspring.

Bottlenose dolphins have been found to have signature whistles, a whistle that is unique to a specific individual. These whistles are used in order for dolphins to communicate with one another by identifying an individual. It can be seen as the dolphin equivalent of a name for humans.[112] These signature whistles are developed during a dolphin's first year; it continues to maintain the same sound throughout its lifetime.[113] In order to obtain each individual whistle sound, dolphins undergo vocal production learning. This consists of an experience with other dolphins that modifies the signal structure of an existing whistle sound. An auditory experience influences the whistle development of each dolphin. Dolphins are able to communicate to one another by addressing another dolphin through mimicking their whistle. The signature whistle of a male bottlenose dolphin tends to be similar to that of his mother, while the signature whistle of a female bottlenose dolphin tends to be more distinguishing.[114] Bottlenose dolphins have a strong memory when it comes to these signature whistles, as they are able to relate to a signature whistle of an individual they have not encountered for over twenty years.[115] Research done on signature whistle usage by other dolphin species is relatively limited. The research on other species done so far has yielded varied outcomes and inconclusive results.[116][117][118][119]

Bearing in mind that the classification of cetaceans is fluid, the current count puts the number of whales, dolphins and porpoises living in the world's seas, oceans and river systems today at 86. These 86 animals are further divided into two groups - Mysticetes - (baleen whales) and Odontocetes - (toothed whales).

Meditation research is poised to make major contributions to mental autonomy. Mindfulness practice can sometimes lead to a crystal-clear and silent mind that is not clouded by thoughts at all, the pure conscious experience of mental autonomy as such that arises without actually exerting control. In long-term practitioners, this can result from the cultivation of a kind of inner non-acting that includes noticing, gently letting go, and resting in an open, effortless state of choiceless awareness.

Finally, mental autonomy brings together the core ideas of both Eastern and Western philosophy. It helps us see the value of both secularised spiritual practice and of rigorous, rational thought. There seem to be two complementary ways to understand the dolphins in our own mind: one, from the point of view of a truly hard-nosed, scientifically minded tourist on the prow of the boat; and two, from the perspective of the wide-open sky, silently looking down from above at the tourist and the dolphins porpoising in the ocean.

An appropriate IQ test to measure dolphin intelligence does not exist. It is impossible to fully assess this animal's level of intelligence in this manner. But another way which has been suggested to measure intelligence is by determining the measure of relative brain size defined as the ratio between actual brain mass and predicted brain mass for an animal of a given size. This is called the "encephalization quotient", or EQ. This measurement suggests the higher the number, the greater the intelligence. The human EQ is 7.0. The EQ for great apes, elephants, chimpanzees and whales is about 1.8-2.3, meaning they have smaller brains for their body size than do humans. The dolphin's EQ is 4.2, the closest EQ ratio to the human than any other animal.

"We're interested in developing the next generation of underwater vehicles so we're trying to understand how dolphins and whales swim as efficiently as they do," says Keith W. Moored, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics in Lehigh University's P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. "We're studying how these animals are designed and what's beneficial about that design in terms of their swimming performance, or the fluid mechanics of how they swim."

Moored is the principal investigator on a paper recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface that examined the fluid mechanics of cetacean propulsion by numerically simulating their oscillating tail fins. For the first time, Moore and his team were able to develop a model that could quantitatively predict how the motions of the fin should be tailored to its shape to maximize its efficiency. The research was part of a larger project supported by the Office of Naval Research under its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program. The project, which received more than $7 million in funding (with $1 million going to Lehigh) over more than five years, also included the University of Virginia, West Chester University, Princeton University, and Harvard University.

"A tail that's flapping up and down generates forces just like an aircraft, but it also generates added mass forces that have to do with how fast the fluid is being accelerated," says Moored. "In the past, people didn't think those added mass forces were that relevant in cetacean swimming. It's not acknowledged at all in the previous literature. But we found that the accelerations of the fin are integral to predicting the trends of efficiency, and that was fascinating to us. It ultimately gives us a predictive model that's accurate. Without it, we'd basically be saying that fin shape doesn't change the efficiency, and that's not true." 041b061a72


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