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Mindful conservation – why we need a new respect for nature

'We should look at whales and dolphins as the indigenous people of the seas -...
A dolphin called Arnie with a shell

Dolphins catch fish using giant shell tools

In Shark Bay, Australia, two groups of dolphins have figured out how to use tools...
Common dolphins at surface

Did you know that dolphins have unique personalities?

We all have personalities, and between the work Christmas party and your family get-together, perhaps...
Leaping harbour porpoise

The power of harbour porpoise poo

We know we need to save the whale to save the world. Now we are...
Holly. Image: Miray Campbell

Meet Holly, she’s an incredible orca leader

Let me tell you the story of an awe-inspiring orca with a fascinating family story...
Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

A story about whales and humans

As well as working for WDC, I write books for young people. Stories; about the...
Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...

Darwin’s cognitive continuum

Recent media stories about ‘dumb dolphins’ (apparently taken out of context) require some antidote and here’s just the thing. Pour yourself a coffee, settle back and listen to this podcast, which features some of the famous names in chimpanzee, dolphin, parrot, prairie dog and wolf research, to name just a few. The discussion ranges from mimicry, language, syntax, mirror-self recognition, cooperative behaviour and play, the roles of individuals within their societies to animal emotions and empathy.

Darwin described the difference between the minds of humans and other ‘higher’ species as being a difference in degree, rather than kind – the logic being that human intelligence didn’t miraculously metamorphose out of thin air, but evolved over time, likely, in incremental steps. Whilst humans are supremely well adapted for exploiting a wide range of habitats, there are some cognitive challenges, such as spatial memory, for which other species can outperform us (such as the Western scrub jay’s ability to recall where they have cached food). So, intelligence is a mechanism for survival and its development and the relative usefulness of certain traits relates to the ecological niche which a species inhabits.

Although quite a lengthy podcast, this it is well worth your time. The fascinating accounts challenge all of us to observe other species more closely and to at least try to take off our anthropocentric goggles when thinking about why another species might be behaving in a certain way.

The next century promises fascinating insights into the minds of many of the other species with which we share our blue planet, as we shake off our prejudices and shine some light into the Darwinian continuum.