Dolphins keep amazing people with their clever tricks. Now it seems they can even copy the moves of others without needing to see them (see video above). A team at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida, conducted the first experiment with blindfolded dolphins to investigate how they imitate others. Although they are known to mimic sounds and actions, it’s unclear exactly what senses they use to do this. (?!<—EchoLocation–red.)
A dolphin called Tanner that had previously been trained to imitate other dolphins visually was chosen for the task. When his trainer gives a hand signal, Tanner knows to copy the moves of the dolphin next to him. To see how he performed without sight, his eyes were covered with plastic eye cups after he was given the cue. Then a second dolphin performed an action, or produced a sound Tanner was familiar with, and the researchers observed his ability to replicate it.
Unsurprisingly, the team found that he had no problem reproducing sounds blindfolded. But he also reproduced a lot of actions with his eyes covered up, and even when he made mistakes the move wasn’t too far off.
“Since we know he wasn’t using sight, he had to be using sound,” says Kelly Jaakkola, a member of the team. “Either by recognising the characteristic sound that the behaviour makes, like you or I may recognise the sound of hands clapping, or by using echolocation.”
If I may add to this article: A very insightfull documentary about Echolocation:(Red. ArtAfFactory.)
Daniel Kish and Juan Ruiz using and explaining Echolocation
Derren Brown : On Echolocation. (s.v.p.: Click inside video to see it on youtube)
Speaking about Dolphins:
Here is a Lovely Art Book about these truely amazing creatures:
Everyone loves a dolphin: the forehead that bulges sweetly like an overinflated Lilo; the smooth beak around which the mouth curves into a permanent grin; the high-pitched chirrup, like laughter in Morse code. Happily, dolphins seem to like us too – a result, according to A School of Dolphins, “not only of a shared biological descent, but also of a roughly equivalent size of brain in proportion to body mass”.
This book bears many of the hallmarks of Thames & Hudson, its highly regarded publisher, which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. A “survey of the dolphin in Western art”, it is elegantly designed, handsomely bound and full of lavishly reproduced pictures.
It is also staggeringly niche, a big (and rather odd) fish in an exceedingly small pond; again, no great surprise from a publisher that has never been afraid to delve into the neglected corners of art history, an approach that has paid off in the past with such feather-ruffling titles as Robert Hughes’s Shock of the New and David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge.
A School of Dolphins, to its detriment, has the feel of a project commissioned on a whim (after a couple of glasses of bubbly at the company’s birthday party, perhaps?) predicated on the fact that Thames & Hudson – which takes its name from the rivers of London and New York – happens to have two dolphins in its logo. The company’s founder, Walter Neurath, apparently thought dolphins to be intelligent and friendly, qualities he hoped both his books and employees would share.
Charles Avery, a former deputy keeper of sculpture at the V&A Museum, somehow manages to spin out his esoteric subject over more than 250 pages, arguing a case for the dolphin to be acknowledged as a sort of Zelig-like figure of Western art: a most adaptable creature that has been cropping up for millennia, in slightly different guises, in mosaics, paintings, sculpture and pottery.
The book’s glut of images – a triumph of picture research – lends some weight to this thesis. Here, in a Greek fresco from 1500BC, a pod of multicoloured dolphins frolic around a couple of crowded galleys. There, on a Renaissance fountain, a particularly obliging specimen serves as a sort of cetacean love seat for Peleus and Thetis, while elsewhere, two more dolphins form the arms of Henri Matisse’s favourite chair.
Avery maps the changing role assumed by the dolphin in the cultural consciousness – as lucky mascot, aquatic steed for Cupid and Venus, French heraldic symbol, and even, in Greek myth, as psychopompos, carrying across the River Styx the souls of men too grand to cadge a ride on Charon’s creaky ferryboat.
He also explores the curious case of Venice, a city surrounded by water whose outline bears an uncanny resemblance to a dolphin. Avery argues that this similarity has been deliberately exaggerated over time, first by 16th-century mapmakers, and later by town planners whose “major extension along the northern fringes of the city served to enhance the streamlined profile of the dolphin’s back”.
There’s fun to be had here looking at the images of painted or sculpted dolphins and trying to work out whether or not the artist responsible had ever clapped eyes on the real thing. There are some impressively lifelike specimens from nearly four millennia ago, but, as late as the Renaissance, many artists were still getting it spectacularly wrong. In Giovanni della Robbia’s gaudy sculpture of Cupid on a dolphin’s back from around 1520 the dolphin has scales, creepy yellow eyes, a pig’s snout and a set of pointy gnashers the envy of any alligator.
The prose Avery stumps up to accompany these pictures is too often dry, academic stodge. “A dolphin carried for Renaissance man a weight of symbolism to us surprising, mostly derived from ancient sources,” he intones in one tortuous introduction typical of the book.
Far more engaging writing comes at the end, in a short anthology of cetacean cameos from literature – ranging from Aesop’s tragic fable of the monkey and the dolphin to Douglas Adams’s insistence that dolphins are brilliantly brainy mammals “that had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man”. By the time I had trawled through to this point, though, my affection for dolphins had begun to wear rather thin. I felt close to drowning in this bottlenose bottleneck, and couldn’t wait to resurface into the wider world.
A School of Dolphins
by Charles Avery
The Book: A School Of Dolphins: http://www.thamesandhudson.com/9780500238615.html