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Thread: Elephants are self-aware?

  1. #1
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
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    Elephants are self-aware?

    Elephants Recognize Selves in Mirror, Study Says

    Elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors, according to a new study. Humans, great apes, and dolphins are the only other animals known to possess this form of self-awareness.

    All of these animals also lead socially complex lives and display empathy—concern and understanding of another's feelings—researchers report.


    "There seems to be some correlation between an ability to recognize oneself in a mirror and higher forms of social complexity," said Joshua Plotnik, a graduate student in psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

    To assess elephants' self-awareness, Plotnik and his colleagues tested three adult female Asian elephants in front of a mirror.

    All three pachyderms sized up their mirror images by inspecting behind the mirror, rubbing their trunks the length of the mirror, or probing their mouths with their trunks to see if their reflections did the same.

    One elephant named Happy also passed the so-called mark test, repeatedly touching her trunk to a white X painted on her forehead that was only visible in the mirror.

    The researchers say this is firm evidence of mirror self-recognition.

    "It's very possible the other two failing [the mark test] was due to issues with the mark itself—perhaps they didn't care about it or weren't interested in it," Plotnik said.

    "What we find most important is [that] one passed. That demonstrates elephants have the capacity for this particular form of self-recognition," he continued.


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    Wow, I knew elephants were empathetic animals, visiting the sites of dead elephants in an almost ritual manner, but this is awesome news.

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    Too bad there's also this:

    Scientists, Zookeepers Lead Campaign to End Japanese Dolphin Slaughter

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In Japanese villages each year, local fishermen hunt for large numbers of dolphins by herding them into shallow coves and then, scientists say, attacking them with knives and even eviscerating them alive.

    Now, a broad-based coalition including marine scientists and aquarium workers is demanding that the Japanese end these government-sanctioned dolphin drives, which opponents criticize as an inhumane annual practice that targets an intelligent and self-aware species.

    "They're dying this sort of long, slow, painful, excruciating death," said Dr. Paul Boyle, the former director of the New York Aquarium and current chairman and chief executive of The Ocean Project, a Providence-based coalition that is helping coordinate the effort.


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  2. #2
    One elephant named Happy also passed the so-called mark test, repeatedly touching her trunk to a white X painted on her forehead that was only visible in the mirror.
    Her boyfriend was waiting outside, he'd been ready to go for ages but he could not get her away from the mirror. What was he supposed to say whe she asked "Does my bum look big in this?"

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Her boyfriend was waiting outside, he'd been ready to go for ages but he could not get her away from the mirror. What was he supposed to say whe she asked "Does my bum look big in this?"
    That's funny Adrian.
    Might be many species have self awareness but don't have mirrors.
    Elephants are AMAZING animals. And boy are they a strict social ordered species.

    So much has been learned by humans making some really whopper mistakes in dealing with them.
    The juvenile males killed over 100 rhinos when they were transferred without any mature bulls into a reserve. They didn't have any idea how to be a bull elephant..then a group of scientists figured this out and they brought in 10 mature bulls to straighten out the teenagers..and it worked.

    Those poor bull elephants when they go into musk are a real mess. They drip musk from their temples and they have a constant stream oozing out of their penises.

    Even the bulls who live bachelor lives after being sent away by their mothers at about 12 years of life have funerals for their dead fellow bulls and protect the carcass from any type of scavenger for weeks at a time.

    And what the Asian countries are doing to marine life and dogs is pathetic. They are taking away all large dogs from the citizens of China and if you ask me they are turning them into meat they are selling to other countries and feeding their own people. Why not stop building concrete jungles and put more money and time into the agriculture and livestock of the countries to feed the over population of the area?
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by lindox
    And what the Asian countries are doing to marine life and dogs is pathetic. They are taking away all large dogs from the citizens of China and if you ask me they are turning them into meat they are selling to other countries and feeding their own people. Why not stop building concrete jungles and put more money and time into the agriculture and livestock of the countries to feed the over population of the area?__________________
    lindox, i dont think it is as simple as that. Dogs are a traditional dish in many parts of asia also they are not eating the dogs because they are starving but because it is their culture, why should we be squeamish about human consumption of dog meat? I must admit I dont particularly care for the taste though, sorry , does that make me a cannibal in your eyes?
    IMO the myth of Asian over population is just that, a myth. Many countries in europe have a much higher population density than countries in Asia, most of the biggest cities in the world are not in Asia.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by IanTPoulter
    lindox, i dont think it is as simple as that. Dogs are a traditional dish in many parts of asia also they are not eating the dogs because they are starving but because it is their culture, why should we be squeamish about human consumption of dog meat? I must admit I dont particularly care for the taste though, sorry , does that make me a cannibal in your eyes?
    IMO the myth of Asian over population is just that, a myth. Many countries in europe have a much higher population density than countries in Asia, most of the biggest cities in the world are not in Asia.
    Do you expect me to say it's alright to eat dogs?
    That won't happen Ian. Not today...never never never.

    I might be able to understand it if people are really starving..other then that it's just not in my comprehension.

    Not mentally or emotionally. And when did you eat dog?
    And why?
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  6. #6
    Of course elephants are "self-aware". All mammals are, if they have a functioning brain. The fact that this question would even come up is silly. What does it mean to be "self-aware"? To me, it means that the animal can distinguish between itself and others. A rat knows which leg to bite in a fight and it is definitely not his own. That is self-awareness.

    On a radio talk show about a decade ago in Seattle, I was debating a PETA representative and a caller phoned in to ask whether fish can feel pain. The radio talk show host claimed that fish cannot feel pain. The PETA spokesperson said that of course fish can feel pain and the talkshow host turned the question over to me. I may not have said it clearly at the time but, upon reflection, I believe fish can feel pain. What is pain? Pain is one of the most primitive of sensations that tells the creature that something bad is happening. A fish not only has reflexes to swim away from painful stimuli but they can remember electrical shocks and other painful events. In my opinion, pain is a form of self-awareness.

    So how far down the phylogenetic scale does self-awareness go? I suspect that it goes down pretty far. The most primitive version of self-awareness is not to eat oneself. So, a squid does not eat its own tentacles. By the way, when I was younger and working on squids, I use to do experiments on squid giant axons. After we cut their heads off, the heads often remained alive and their beaks still worked. As long as the tentacles were attached, they will not eat them. However, if we cut a tentacle off and placed it in the beak, they ate the tentacle. Please note that I would never do this again. It is cruel and squids probably can feel pain.

    Can insects feel pain? I suspect that they do, for the following reasons. You can behaviorally condition even fruit flies (drosophila) with painful stimuli. In fact, a pain gene has been discovered in drosophila. Appropriately called "Painless", this gene is necessary for nociception in the fly. Flies that are missing this gene do not show the behavioral responses for pain (Source). Likewise, analgesics also prevent pain-induced behavior in Drosophila. In fact, they are a great model for testing and discovering new analgesic drugs (Source).

    Correspondingly, I believe that lobsters can feel pain. They belong to the same order (Arthropoda) as insects and while their nervous system is crude, it is very similar to those of insects. Lobsters behave in ways to avoid pain and can be conditioned. They respond to analgesics. They also have memories of pain. Just because they can't scream or we can't hear them scream when we put them into boiling water does not mean that they don't have pain.

    On the other hand, I am uncertain whether plants can feel pain or are "self-aware". Some people do claim that plants have a rudimentary nervous system (Source) and do show responses to damaging stimuli. I am not sure that that a rubber tree feels pain when it is being cut for its sap or that a mushroom feels pain when it is stepped on. By the way, while pain implies self-awareness, self-awareness need not imply pain. For example, if somebody cuts my hair, I am definitely aware that my hair is being cut and self-aware but it would not be painful. Self-awareness implies sentience as well although sentience does not necessarily imply self-awareness. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience , "Sentience refers to possession of sensory organs, the ability to feel or perceive, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness." There is no question that some plants are sentient. They are able to respond to stimuli.

    Incidentally, perhaps we should consider the concept of some plants being as part of a larger organism. For example, some forests are composed of many trees that are part of one single network of trees. They have the same genes, are connected by their roots, and arose from the roots (as opposed to seeds). Such a forest could perhaps be considered a single organism. Can a forest of connected trees be sentient, self-aware, and perceive pain? I don't know. In such a case, cutting down trees perhaps would be similar to cutting hair on your face or head. There may not be "pain" involved. Would the forest be "aware" that its trees are being cut down? I don't know. If one can measure the response of the rest of the forest, perhaps one can say that there is awareness and therefore sentience. Can we call this self-awareness. I don't know.

    Sorry for the philosophical rambling.

    Wise.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 11-22-2006 at 06:31 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lindox
    Do you expect me to say it's alright to eat dogs?
    That won't happen Ian. Not today...never never never.

    I might be able to understand it if people are really starving..other then that it's just not in my comprehension.

    Not mentally or emotionally. And when did you eat dog?
    And why?
    No , I didnt expect you to say its ok but none the less many people do eat and enjoy dog meat much as western people eat other kinds of meat. Just throwing a different perspective at you.
    I had a stay in north sumatera for a year or 2 in the late 70's. The christian tribespeople there eat dog, they keep them as pets in the villages and they serve multi functions by acting as food scavengers they keep the place clean, act as watchdogs and invariably end up on the dinner plate if theres nothing else. The meats a bit too stringy and gristly for my liking but that was the menu. Like I say, animal protein is hard to get in some places.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by IanTPoulter
    No , I didnt expect you to say its ok but none the less many people do eat and enjoy dog meat much as western people eat other kinds of meat. Just throwing a different perspective at you.
    I had a stay in north sumatera for a year or 2 in the late 70's. The christian tribespeople there eat dog, they keep them as pets in the villages and they serve multi functions by acting as food scavengers they keep the place clean, act as watchdogs and invariably end up on the dinner plate if theres nothing else. The meats a bit too stringy and gristly for my liking but that was the menu. Like I say, animal protein is hard to get in some places.
    All I can say is a cow has never slept at the foot of my bed..or burrowed under the covers of said bed either. And my dogs are not my pets they are my friends of the highest order. I don't expect a cow to
    guard me or my property. Or for them to give a darn if I have fallen on my face. Don't expect them to join the military or become police officers either. Or find a lost human in an avalanche. Dogs are not cows or pigs or fish or crustaceans or insects or birds. They are DOGS. A dog wags his tail with his heart. Martin Buxbaum.
    Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

  9. #9
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    How about wild dogs? Like Dingos? They are considered vermin in many parts of australia, is it ok to kill them but not to eat them?

  10. #10
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
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    Wise, maybe my phrasing of the title of the thread caused a misconception. I realize after reading your post that "self-aware" is a broad term that can be used to describe many different kinds of behavior.

    But how many species can recognize themselves in a mirror? Distinguish themselves as being an individual, and not mistake the image as another member of one's species? This is the form of self-awareness the article addresses.

    Do you believe it is it true only dolphins, great apes, humans and now elephants can do this?
    Last edited by rdf; 11-22-2006 at 08:03 PM.
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