Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Elephant Self-Awareness: 'If you're Happy and you know it, pat your head'

From the Washington Post: Washington, D.C. - If you're Happy and you know it, pat your head. That, in a peanut shell, is how a 34-year-old female Asian elephant in the Bronx Zoo showed researchers that pachyderms can recognize themselves in a mirror - complex behavior observed in only a few other species.

The test results suggest elephants - or at least the one called 'Happy' - are self-aware. The ability to distinguish oneself from others had been shown only in humans, chimpanzees and, to a limited extent, dolphins.

...In a 2005 experiment, Happy faced her reflection in an 8-by-8-foot mirror and repeatedly used her trunk to touch an "X" painted above her eye. The elephant could not have seen the mark except in her reflection.

Continued at "Mirror Test Implies Elephants Self-Aware"
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Based on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper "Self-recognition in an Asian elephant" (Abstract)

Also reported by the Los Angeles Times: "But do they all think they're fat?"

Featured Book: "Self-Awareness in Animals and Humans: Developmental Perspectives" (Amazon UK | US)

Books on Animal Cognition from the Science and Evolution Bookshop: UK | US

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