May 21, 2007

Smarter, sentient whales

animal minds,evolution,theory of mind — thomasr @ 4:13 am Print This Post  AddThis Social Bookmark Button

whale.jpgRecent studies have shown that the brains of sperm whales is second in size only to human (relative to body size). It is about 60% larger in absolute mass than that of an elephant. How this brain evolution has occurred is the topic of a most interesting article in PLoS Biology, authored by Lori Marino et al. In this article the authors also forcefully argue that the increased brain size is paralleled by a comparable increase in cognitive complexity. As the authors write:

We believe that the time is ripe to present an integrated view of cetacean brains, behavior, and evolution based on the wealth of accumulated and recent data on these topics. Our conclusions support the more generally accepted view that the large brain of cetaceans evolved to support complex cognitive abilities.

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