We already know that whales and dolphins are pretty intelligent.
Bottlenose dolphins use sponges as protective face masks to probe the sea floor without damaging their snoots.
A new report suggests that those smarts might extend to emotions too.
In fact, scientists think that whales and dolphins might mourn and mourn just like humen do.
A recent paper in the Journal of Mammalogy documented this apparent mourning behaviour in seven species of whale and dolphin, including spinner dolphins, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, orca whales, and sperm whales.
Basically, scientists noticed that adult whales and dolphins tried to care for and nurture their dead young, a behavior that might represent a sort of grieving.
“They are mourning, ” the paper’s co-author Melissa Reggente told National Geographic. “They are in pain and stressed. They know something is wrong.”
In one instance, in the Red Sea off Egypt, a small boat of biologists saw an adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin swimming, pushing at, and touching a lately deceased adolescent dolphin.
The biologists watched for a while before eventually fixing a rope around the juvenile and towing it ashore, where it was buried.
Even then, though, the adult dolphin followed them, swimming around and touching the juvenile until the water became too shallow for the dolphin to go on. But even after children and juveniles had been interred, the adult remained around the area.
We’ve considered what might be mourning behaviour in other animals before.
Elephants have been observed gently touching the bones of the dead. In his book “Elephant Destiny, ” elephant researcher Martin Meredith retold a story about an elephant household cry and covering a recently dead matriarch with branches.
We’ve observed fostering dead young in other animals too, like chimpanzees, but also in animals such as giraffes and manatees as well.
This new research is regrettably fairly timely, considering that many species of whale and dolphin had much to grieve about lately.
Overzealous whaling in the 17 th-2 0th centuries drove many whale species to the brink of extinction. Today, whaling is rare. But pollution, industrialization, and climate change still threaten these kinds of ocean beasts.
Plus, eight of the 13 big whale species are currently endangered or critically endangered, including blue whales and fin whales. Many others are threatened or vulnerable.
Ascribing human emotions to animals is tricky, but we already know they’re complex, emotional creatures.
Though I’d wager that nearly all pet owneds can name times when their animals were anxious or joyful or mourn, scientists are usually hesitant to pin human feelings on animals.
This is mostly because our own human feelings are so tied into our culture that it’d be a little presumptuous to believe animal emotions would look or feel precisely like ours.
But it would probably be hard to find person arguing that big, social animals like whales don’t feel something .
This report adds weight to the idea that grief is a common and widespread behavior in long-lived, social species.
The same parts of our brains that process emotions are shared by a wide range of animals.
And if animals really do feel feelings, perhaps we need to think more about how we’re treating the other species on countries around the world too .
Read more: www.upworthy.com