Reiss developed a special underwater keyboard for dolphins which would give them some choice and control. When a key was pressed, a computer-generated whistle would sound in the water and air. Each whistle corresponded to a specific object or activity, so the dolphins would be able to communicate with the human researcher to request certain actions. Pan and Delphi, Reiss’s research subjects, were 11 months old when they first interacted with the keyboard. On their own, they learned to press symbolic keys on the keyboard, and they also began to imitate and reproduce the computer-generated whistles spontaneously.
Delphi and Pan continued to use the keyboard, and in the second year of the study, the research team learned that the dolphins had made associations on their own between the keys, computer whistles, and particular objects and activities.
Courtesy of Nature-WNET
Dolphins sometimes play by intentionally blowing bubble rings and using them as toys. “Minds are at work,” Reiss writes.
In animal cognition research, mirrors are used to test for a level of self-awareness, an animal’s ability to comprehend itself as a discrete individual. By recognizing images of themselves in a mirror, dolphins have demonstrated a kind of self-awareness.
This young dolphin named Bayley spins in place—not a normal dolphin behavior—and watches herself in a mirror placed in the pool.
Dolphin socialization involves the dynamic building of alliances, as seen when several dolphins swim and forage in a close-knit group.
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