Monday, May 14, 2007

And kneel and squeak an Ave there for me

Apparently the dolphins of the River Shannon have an Irish accent:

As part of a research project, student Ronan Hickey digitised and analysed a total of 1,882 whistles from the Irish dolphins and those from Cardigan Bay in Wales on a computer and separated them into six fundamental whistle types and 32 different categories.

Of the categories, he found most were used by both sets of dolphins -- but eight were only heard from the Irish dolphins.

No word on whether they drink Guinness and play underwater hurling.


RW said...

Not surprising that they would have accents, I imagine a lot of vocal animals do. I dont know that it is especially probative of higher brain function.
Brain size, on the other hand:
"Evidence from various domains of research demonstrates that cetacean brains underwent elaboration and reorganization during their evolution with resulting expansion of the neocortex. Cortical evolution, however, proceeded along very different lines than in primates and other large mammals. Despite this divergence, many cetaceans evince some of the most sophisticated cognitive abilities among all mammals and exhibit striking cognitive convergences with primates, including humans. In many ways, it is because of the evolution of similar levels of cognitive complexity via an alternative neuroanatomical path that comparative studies of cetacean brains and primate brains are so interesting. They are examples of convergent evolution of function largely in response, it appears, to similar societal demands."

And I strongly commend to you "Jerison, HJ. Schusterman, RJ.;Thomas, JA.; Wood, FG. Dolphin cognition and behavior: a comparative approach. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1986. The perceptual world of dolphins; pp. 141–166. In. editors."

Features a critique of Kant, reasoning from the kind of structuring concepts that would have evolved if a species were endowed with different perceptual faculties, using Dolphins as the example. High quality crankery.

RW said...

I take that back, evidently accents are a sign of higher , or at least a cognitive biologist from Emory thinks so.
From the same source below:
"Imitation is an important type of social learning that can readily lead to stable cultures. While it is clear that many cetaceans are natural mimics, executing synchronous motor behaviors, such as “porpoising” in unison, and spontaneously imitating sounds, including the whistles of others, imitation is a complex multidimensional ability that is most intimately studied in the laboratory. Bottlenose dolphin abilities for both arbitrary vocal and motor imitation were demonstrated at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu. Vocal imitation was investigated by broadcasting electronically generated “model” sounds underwater into a dolphin's habitat [43]. In response, the dolphin vocalized into a hydrophone. Figure A in this box shows spectrograms of each of nine model sounds and the resulting imitation. The arrow points to the beginning of the dolphin's imitation. A variety of different waveforms were imitated accurately; the imitations of sounds G and H show spontaneous octave generalization, the imitation occurring precisely an octave above (G) or an octave below (H) the model sound. Octave generalization is a rare ability that, for example, has not been elicited from songbirds."


RW said...

Longer post on the subject of evidence of dolphin self-awareness and ethical responsibilities toward the individual animal on my link.

Forgive the blog-whore. Wont make a habit.

AJD said...

Gah. Please see here and here.

Doin' my part to prevent the propagation of underinformed journalists' exaggerated claims about language.