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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an in-depth discussion of the cognition of the most well known cetacean—the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). First, observational and experimental evidence for various cognitive capacities is examined across four major areas: concepts and memory, physical cognition, social cognition, and symbolic cognition. The results suggest that dolphins possess a level of complex cognition largely on par with great apes, but surpass them in several areas of social cognition, and lag behind in one area of physical cognition. Next, evolutionary pressures hypothesized to account for the expansion of the dolphin neocortex and associated cognitive abilities are examined. It is suggested that, as with apes, the capacity for secondary representation may provide a key mechanism underlying dolphins' complex cognitive abilities.

Keywords: Bottlenose dolphin, cognitive evolution, secondary representation, tool use, cooperation, theory of mind, imitation, signature whistles, symbolic cognition

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