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Dolphins can Detect Pregnancy Using Echolation

Jul 12, 2013 03:27 AM EDT
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued a baby dolphin (not pictured) stranded close to shore on a Florida beach on the 4th of July, and all their efforts were captured on video.
(Photo : Reuters)

Dolphins can detect pregnancy in women using echolation, according to an expert.

Dolphins emit sound waves and listen to the echo to make sense of their environment. Experts say that it possible that a dolphin may be able to detect the difference in the echo of woman before and during pregnancy. Doctors too use detection devices that use high pitched pulses of sounds to detect the presence of the fetus, Livescience reported.

Previously it was speculated that the dolphins might know when a woman is pregnant as female dolphins are known to take particular interest in pregnant women, often seen swimming close to them.

"I think it's extremely plausible [dolphins] would be able to detect a fetus," said Lori Marino, a neuro-scientist at Emory University in Atlanta who studies cetacean intelligence, according to Livescience. However, "you'd have to really do a well-controlled study to make a definitive statement," she cautioned.

When dolphins want to communicate with other dolphins or are just curious about something, they put their snout on it and buzz, which is a sort of concentrated echolation. Dolphins are known to "buzz" around pregnant women.

Marion told Livescience that dolphins might get a kind of ultrasound image of the human fetus. "We know from other studies that they are very good at going from a visual image to an acoustic image," and vice versa, Marino said.

There is other anecdotal evidence of dolphins detecting cancers in people. Marino said that there aren't enough studies to prove that dolphins can detect cancer. She also cautioned against using dolphins to "heal" other diseases.

Dolphins belong to the familes Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) or Platanistidae (river dolphins). Most dolphins are small with beak-like snout and needle-like teeth. They are popular due to their friendliness, grace and intelligence. Research has shown that dolphins can use non-linear mathematics to  assist with their echolocation hunting.

Some scientists believe dolphins and whales to be "non-human" persons as they are self aware and are highly intelligent. Experts in philosophy, conservation and animal behavior proposed last year at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada proposed that Cetaceans (order that includes dolphins and mammals) be given rights to life and property just like humans, meaning that cetaceans can't be either hunted or used for entertainment purposes by humans.

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