Elephants recognize themselves in the mirror

We already knew that humans, great apes, and dolphins are able to recognize themselves in the mirror. Usually, the rest of higher mammals or other animals think the image in the glass belongs to another individual (if they understand the concept of individual at all). According to the research work done at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, elephants have joined this small group of species able to recognize themselves in the mirror. Scientists exposed elephants to 8’x8′ mirrors and the pachyderms responded with behavior of self-awareness, including touching marks painted on their foreheads, and inspecting their own body.

Scientists say that animals express this ability in four phases. The first one is a social response to the image in the mirror. Secondly, a physical inspection of their own body is performed. And the final recognition of themselves comes after some imitating behaviors. Animals with this ability are self-conscious and generally evolve to more complex social abilities (like empathy). Nevertheless, only one of the elephants participating in the experiment touched the mark painted on his forehead. If the elephant’s self-awareness hypothesis is true, we should expect more experiment results in this way.

More information: Yerkes Primate Research Center

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