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Dolphins form life raft to help dying friend

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Everybody's favourite cetacean just got a little more lovable. For the first time, dolphins have been spotted teaming up to try to rescue an injured group member. The act does not necessarily mean dolphins are selfless or can empathise with the pain of their kin, however.

Kyum Park of the Cetacean Research Institute in Ulsan, South Korea, and colleagues were surveying cetaceans in the Sea of Japan in June 2008. They spent a day following a group of about 400 long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis).

In the late morning they noticed that about 12 dolphins were swimming very close together. One female was in difficulties: it was wriggling and tipping from side to side, sometimes turning upside-down. Its pectoral flippers seemed to be paralysed.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23108-dolphins-form-life-raft-to-help-dying-friend.html

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"The act does not necessarily mean dolphins are selfless or can empathise with the pain of their kin, however."

That sounds almost like a "Phew... let's hope it's mere instinct".

"Furthermore, if the group contains close relatives, protecting those relatives helps the dolphins preserve their shared genes."

Yeah, that was of course one of the first things on their minds...

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Why can't animals, and especially those as smart as dolphins, be altruistic?

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Why can't animals, and especially those as smart as dolphins, be altruistic?

Humans are animals, so the answer is, they can.

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Dolphins are fairly selfless. There are reports of them saving other animals and humans .

That in no way helps them .

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"The act does not necessarily mean dolphins are selfless or can empathise with the pain of their kin, however."

That sounds almost like a "Phew... let's hope it's mere instinct".

"Furthermore, if the group contains close relatives, protecting those relatives helps the dolphins preserve their shared genes."

Yeah, that was of course one of the first things on their minds...

What's funny is, if it was instinct, then surely they would chose not to save her, because they wouldn't want the gene to carry on in case it's inferior.

It annoys the hell out of me when Scientists play these things down. I guess it's so they don't feel guilty testing on animals.

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Animal experimentation is a necessary evil. We often have to choose the lesser of evils. All we can do is try to be sure the experiments are really necessary and done in the most humane way possible.

That animals feel and experience is to my mind beyond question. I am put in mind of Voltaire's unsparing account of a dog's sounds while it was being vivisected by a doctor who kept insisting it felt no pain.

We all have instincts, probably more than we imagine, but instincts don't bring out thousands to lose their weekends trying to rescue a beached whale as happened near here (although they readily enough turned it into whale steaks when the efforts failed). Instinct would have led them to just kill the animal outright -- its genes have nothing to do with ours.

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They give an evolutionary explanation for the behavior, but that does mean they don't empathize or have "human" emotions. Altruism and every other emotion and behavior in humans can be explained in terms of evolution and its benefit to reproduction, also (if you buy into evolutionary theory).

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Dolphins do kill and rape their own also....

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