Sunday, January 21, 2018

Interview with an exceptional dolphin

A researcher at the National Aquarium of Baltimore reports that a dolphin was able to recognize itself in a mirror at only seven months old. That's more than I can do on a Monday morning. 

Most human babies only manage this feat of self-recognition at one year old, meaning if dolphins drove cars, their bumper stickers would say “My calf is smarter than your toddler.” Dolphins would also drive up a lot more curbs, I’m guessing. 

I have traveled to Baltimore, and I am lucky to have with me today the brainiac dolphin in question. Her name is Bayley, and I have outfitted her with a state-of-the-art dolphin voice translation system I invented, called writing. Welcome, Bayley.

Bayley: Thanks.

GW: So you seem to have outdone every other animal species on Earth when it comes to early self-recognition. Is there something special about you, or is this typical of dolphins?

Bayley: Pretty typical. Our brains have to develop very quickly in the ocean, to avoid getting eaten. 

GW: When you saw yourself in the mirror for the first time, what did you think?

Bayley: Baby girl’s looking FINE.

GW: You knew it was you immediately.

Bayley: Well, at first I thought my sister got outside the tank somehow, but then I remembered—nobody leaves the tank.

GW: Do you know what’s outside the tank?

Bayley: Only what they teach us—sharks, killer whales, something called “politics.” Nothing good.

GW: So you feared for your sister’s safety?

Bayley: Yeah! But then I noticed her teeth were way too straight.

GW: And the light bulb came on.

Bayley: The what?

GW: The scales fell from your eyes.

Bayley: The what?

GW: You saw you. Yourself. That must have been...

Bayley: It was a trip. I had to take a moment. 

GW: It's kind of special. Only a few animals manage self-recognition. Humans, some apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies. That’s about it. 

Bayley: Dude, you are holding your breath a long time for this interview. 

GW: Yes, I am. And thanks for playing along. So what else are dolphins great at?

Bayley: I can catch eight plastic hoops on my face.  

GW: Can you shatter glass with your voice?

Bayley: Yes, actually, but that would be bad. The water would run out and that politics stuff might get in.

GW: Yeah, don’t do that.

Bayley: Can I ask you something?

GW: Sure.

Bayley: What the heck’s a magpie?

. . .

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