Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives' thanks to big brains, says study

The cultural brain hypothesis of human development could also explain cetaceans forming friendships – and even gossiping


Monday 16 October 2017 19.02 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 17 October 2017 11.25 BST


Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play.

That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species’ brain, the more complex – indeed, the more “human-like” – their lives are likely to be.

This suggests that the “cultural brain hypothesis” – the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups – may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans.

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