Dolphin Plays With iPad — In The Name Of Science

People are still scrambling to get their hands on this year’s must-have gadget, the i Pad, but one lucky dolphin in Mexico is already a step ahead. Merlin, the 2-year-old bottlenose who resides at Dolphin Discovery’s swim facility in Puerto Aventuras, became the first of his kind to get face time – literally! – with Apple’s latest release.The dolphin has been learning to communicate and identify objects through visual cues on the iPad as part of a project led by dolphin research scientist Jack Kassewitz. Friendly and full of spirit, Merlin was the perfect pupil to test the device because “he’s fairly dominant … But he’s really playful. He likes to play,” says Kassewitz.

The Miami-based scientist, who’s studied language acquisition in dolphins for more than a decade, has worked with Merlin the past two years — ever since the dolphin planted himself in front of Kassewitz and his camera, vocalizing for more than 25 minutes. But until the iPad, Kassewitz was troubled that he could not understand what the dolphin was trying to say.

Now, by touching the screen with his rostrum (or beak), Merlin can get his point across. For one task, Merlin is charged with identifying the yellow duck within a set of pictures including a ball, flowerpot and hula-hoop. “He got proficient with that very quickly,” Kassewitz says.
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How We Know A Dog Is A Dog: Concept Acquisition In The Human Brain

dog as smart as human

A new study explores how our brains synthesize concepts that allow us to organize and comprehend the world. The research, published by Cell Press in the September 24th issue of the journal Neuron, uses behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to track how conceptual knowledge emerges in the human brain and guides decision making.

The ability to use prior knowledge when dealing with new situations is a defining characteristic of human intelligence. This is made possible through the use of concepts, which are formed by abstracting away the common essence from multiple distinct but related entities. “Although a Poodle and a Golden Retriever look very different from each other, we can easily appreciate their similar attributes because they can be recognized as instances of a particular concept, in this case a dog,” explains lead study author, Dr. Dharshan Kumaran from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London.
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