Open Access

How dolphins see the world: A comparison with chimpanzees and humans

Masaki Tomonaga, Yuka Uwano, Toyoshi Saito
DOI: 10.1038/srep03717
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Examples of trials for dolphins and chimpanzees.


Bottlenose dolphins use auditory (or echoic) information to recognise their environments, and many studies have described their echolocation perception abilities. However, relatively few systematic studies have examined their visual perception. We tested dolphins on a visual-matching task using two-dimensional geometric forms including various features. Based on error patterns, we used multidimensional scaling to analyse perceptual similarities among stimuli. In addition to dolphins, we conducted comparable tests with terrestrial species: chimpanzees were tested on a computer-controlled matching task and humans were tested on a rating task. The overall perceptual similarities among stimuli in dolphins were similar to those in the two species of primates. These results clearly indicate that the visual world is perceived similarly by the three species of mammals, even though each has adapted to a different environment and has differing degrees of dependence on vision.


Evolution, Cognitive neuroscience, Psychology

Article Information
Tomonaga M, Uwano Y, Saito T(2014)How dolphins see the world: A comparison with chimpanzees and humans Scientific Reports, 4, 3717.
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