Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First evidence to show elephants, like humans, apes and dolphins, recognize themselves in mirror

31.10.2006
New finding suggests convergent evolution with humans

Elephants have joined a small, elite group of species-including humans, great apes and dolphins-that have the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror, according to a new finding by researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York. This newly found presence of mirror self-recognition in elephants, previously predicted due to their well-known social complexity, is thought to relate to empathetic tendencies and the ability to distinguish oneself from others, a characteristic that evolved independently in several branches of animals, including primates such as humans.

This collaborative study by Yerkes researchers Joshua Plotnik and Frans de Waal, PhD, director of Yerkes' Living Links Center, and WCS researcher Diana Reiss, PhD, published in the early online edition of the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, was conducted as part of a wide array of cognitive and behavioral evolution research topics at Yerkes' Living Links Center.

"We see highly complex behaviors such as self awareness and self-other distinction in intelligent animals with well established social systems," said Plotnik. "The social complexity of the elephant, its well-known altruistic behavior and, of course, its huge brain, made the elephant a logical candidate species for testing in front of a mirror."

... more about:
»Complex »apes »cognitive »mirror

In the study, researchers exposed three female elephants housed at the Bronx Zoo in New York to a jumbo-sized mirror measuring eight feet high by eight feet wide inside the elephants' yard. During the exposure, the elephants tested their mirrored images by making repetitive body movements and using the mirror to inspect themselves, such as by moving their trunks to inspect the insides of their mouths, a part of the body they usually cannot see. Further, the animals did not react socially to their images, as many animals do, and did not seem to mistake their reflection for that of another elephant.

"Elephants have been tested in front of mirrors before, but previous studies used relatively small mirrors kept out of the elephants' reach," said Plotnik. "This study is the first to test the animals in front of a huge mirror they could touch, rub against and try to look behind."

One elephant also passed a standard test known as the mark test. Each elephant was marked with visible paint on its forehead-a place it could not see without a mirror-and also received a sham mark of colorless face paint. The sham mark controlled for tactile and odor cues to ensure touching the visible mark was due to seeing its reflection and not to the feel or smell of the paint. This test produced the same results as when great apes and human children are presented with the mark test.

"As a result of this study, the elephant now joins a cognitive elite among animals commensurate with its well-known complex social life and high level of intelligence," said de Waal. "Although elephants are far more distantly related to us than the great apes, they seem to have evolved similar social and cognitive capacities making complex social systems and intelligence part of this picture. These parallels between humans and elephants suggest a convergent cognitive evolution possibly related to complex sociality and cooperation."

Scientists have tested mirror self-recognition in a variety of animals other than humans and great apes, but invariably failed, with the exception of the bottlenose dolphin. "After the recent discovery that dolphins are capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror, elephants seemed the next logical species for testing," said Reiss. "Humans, great apes, dolphins and elephants, well known for their superior intelligence and complex social systems, are thought to possess the highest forms of empathy and altruism in the animal kingdom."

Further research on elephant cognition will be conducted by Yerkes' Living Links Center to explore topics in behavioral and cognitive evolution, specifically social complexity in Asian elephants, including cooperation and conflict resolution.

Lisa Newbern | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.emory.edu

Further reports about: Complex apes cognitive mirror

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>