INTO THE LIFE OF CETACEANS
Contribution by Andrea Izzotti
They talk to each other. They name their babies. They use tools, play, gossip and mourn. They are
self-aware, recognising themselves in a mirror, and altruistic, racing to protect other animals in
distress like a squad of marine first responders. They communicate with each other, and some have
regional accents and dialects. New science is suggesting that dolphins’ echolocation skills allow them
to project an ‘auditory image’ to other members of their group – essentially a hologram of what they
Cetaceans appeared about 50M years ago, making them one of the oldest mammal species on earth, since then, they evolved to become a marine animal and the most gracious and intelligent creature in the animal kingdom.
Hunting might resume more broadly
The admiration for these animals has been represented over centuries in our culture. Ancient Mediterranean people gave dolphins the delicate role of carrying souls to their new life after death. The “carriers of souls” roles were probably related to their instinctive tendency to help and rescue men at sea.
But that admiration didn’t give us the tools to understand them. Perhaps the only reason why humans are considered the only intelligent species is because we never fully understood other species or even considered a higher or different type of intelligence.
Much like us, cetaceans and particularly dolphins have the need for comfort and love. However, the resemblance to humans doesn’t stop there, they also benefit from having a sense of humour as much as we do, and have been reported teasing bars, turtles and other fish.
In many ways cetaceans are similar to humans. They experience emotions in similar ways to us. They also have the need for social organisation. Cooperation is one of the most important abilities for any social species. From hunting, breeding, to child-rearing, collaboration has allowed many animals, including humans, to survive and thrive. As we better understand how these animals work together, researchers have been focusing on the degree of cooperation and the cognitive abilities required for such activities.