25 October 2012

Bloody slaughter and a drunkard on a kazoo

Tenth in a series of notes and comments on The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Chapter 4: Dolphin

page 55: annual cull in Taiji: Latest news from Save Japan Dolphins

page 60: teaching new things: dolphins pass on acquired knowledge. One example is the use of a sponge to protect the rostrum when foraging on the sea floor to protect themselves from sharp rocks or shells.

page 62: how much their utterances resemble human language: a beluga named NOC got pretty close, though the sounds he made have been described as like a drunkard playing a kazoo.

page 63: no human has been reported to have learned dolphinese: Henry Thoreau anticipated Carl Sagan's sentiment
It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor toadstools grow so. As if that were important, and there were not enough to understand you without them. As if Nature could support but one order of understandings, could not sustain birds as well as quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things, and hush and whoa, which Bright can understand, were the best English. 
page 63: poor in world:
episodic memory is thought to allow us to imagine and plan for the future. This skill, known as mental time travel, was long thought to be unique to humans, but there are now some signs that a handful of other species might also be able to escape the present.

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