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Evening Lectures - Ocala

Lori Marino, Ph.D.

THE TALK: Dolphin Brains: An Alternative to Complex Intelligence in Primates

March 5, 2015
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Abstract

In the past three decades new research has revealed that dolphin brains are not only large but are extremely complex in their organization, forming the neurobiological basis for the considerable intelligence and socio-cultural characteristics of dolphins and their relatives, the whales. Dolphin brains are larger than expected for their body size and contain numerous features associated with sophisticated perceptual and cognitive abilities, e.g., echolocation, communication, cooperation and dynamic social networks, cultural transmission of learned behaviors, and self-awareness, to name a few. Because of their very different evolutionary history from our own primate lineage, dolphin and whale brains evolved along very different lines than primate brains. The story of their evolution, dating back 55 million years, is a fascinating example of an alternative route to sophisticated intelligence in different species.

Biography

Dr. Lori Marino is a neuroscientist, focused on animal behavior and intelligence, and was on the faculty at Emory University for 19 years. She is the founder and Executive Director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to academic and scholarship-based advocacy for other animals. Dr. Marino has gained international prominence for her noninvasive research into dolphin and whale brains and intelligence and comparisons with primates. She has authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and magazine articles on marine mammal biology and cognition, comparative neuroanatomy, self-awareness in other animals, human-nonhuman animal relationships, and animal welfare and protection. Dr. Marino co-authored a 2001 ground-breaking study showing that dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors and she is currently the coauthor of a new paper on auditory pathways in dolphin brains.

Dr. Marino was recently featured as a National Geographic Innovator and appears in several films and television programs including the powerful documentary Blackfish, about killer whale captivity, The Ghosts in Our Machine, about the lives of individual animals who we employ as part of our modern society, and Inside Animal Minds, a 2014 BBC special on the evolution of dolphin and whale brains. Dr. Marino is also currently senior scientist for the Someone, Not Something Project, a collaboration between Farm Sanctuary and The Kimmela Center focused on cognition and intelligence in farm animals.

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