Posted by: bridget | 3 November 2006

Pachyderm Evolution

Scientists in the Bronx Zoo have determined that elephants can see themselves in a mirror and recognize that they are looking at themselves, which researchers consider to be determinative of consciousness. Many other animals do not realize that they are seeing themselves in a mirror (for example, Beta fish and some dogs). That leaves the big question as to why some animals can recognize themselves (and perform tasks like touching spots on their heads) while others cannot. Dolphins have the same ability; researchers are now hypothesizing that elephants and dolphins share a common ancestor.

Proof of a common ancestor and genetic wiring… or wildly overstated conclusions? The pachyderm votes for the latter.



  1. The only reason humans don’t think most animals have consciousness is because they can’t verbally communicate with us or show the proof we demand. Sometimes I think it’s us humans who are the dullest species on the planet!

  2. Absolutely true. Problem is, humans go straight from “able to see that image in mirror is self” (a very odd concept, from an animal’s perspective) to “is conscious (or not) of self.” Animals with poor depth perception, eyesight, or other ailments may be well conscious of themselves, but would fail this odd test.

    The idea of not being conscious of oneself is really limited to bacteria and similar life forms. An elephant obviously knows where its mouth is and is able to touch it; otherwise, it would starve for inability to eat. It’s absurd to require that one be able to identify an image as oneself to be conscious.

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