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WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
We need whale poo ? WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...

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.