For some time, experts have gathered evidence that dolphins and some whale species are able to experience grief. They mourn their dead in the same way that humans do. One of the most incredible proofs of this was observed back in 2010, when people saw a killer whale pushing around her dead baby for six hours. Humpback whales are also crying over their dead while captive dolphins enter some kind of depressive state when a companion dies. Now, a new study, which the journal Zoology recently published, wants to find out whether or not dolphins and whales really experience this emotion.
In order to do this, Giovanni Bearzi of Dolphin Biology and Conservation and some of his colleagues gathered 78 scientific reports that dealt with grief-like behaviors in cetaceans. Of the 88 species that exist today, only 20 have been observed showing certain signs. They could mean that they were grieving a loved one. Most of these displays, 92.8%, actually came from dolphins. This should not come as a surprise because dolphins are some of the most social creatures out there. About 75% of the grief behaviors were seen in females over their dead calves. When it came to males, this behavior was extremely rare.
Are dolphins and whales able to experience grief?
According to the study, it seems that cetaceans with bigger brains and who live in more complex groups were more likely to show signs of grief. The fact that they have more complex brain structures could be defining when it comes to the ability to feel certain emotions, like grief.
It’s interesting that over the years, experts have witnessed numerous cases of grief in chimpanzees and baboons. This led them to believe that certain animals are indeed capable of felling this emotion. Usually, this behavior is present in species that live in large and complex ponds or communities. When they spend sometimes 60 years together, like dolphins, they surely mourn when a friend passes away.
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