Elephants can enjoy their own reflection in mirror like humans

Elephants have been found to recognise themselves in a mirror, putting them in an exclusive club of self-awareness whose other members are great apes (including humans) and bottlenose dolphins.

"The social complexity of the elephant, its well-known altruistic behaviour and, of course, its huge brain, made the elephant a logical candidate species for testing in front of a mirror," said Joshua Plotnik, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, who led a team whose study was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An 8ft mirror was put in the elephant enclosure at the Bronx zoo in New York and a watch kept on its three inhabitants. The first question was if they greeted their reflection as if meeting another individual - they did not make this mistake, and used the mirror to inspect themselves, for example, moving their trunks to look at the inside of their mouths.

"Elephants have been tested in front of mirrors before, but previous studies used relatively small mirrors kept out of the elephants' reach," Dr Plotnik said. "This study is the first to test the animals in front of a huge mirror they could touch, rub against, and try to look behind," informs Guardian.

According to Forbes, the study found female elephants closely inspecting their reflections in a mirror and apparently not mistaking it for another elephant.

The finding, by researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, suggests convergent evolution with humans.

Self-recognition in a mirror is believed to be related to empathic tendencies (being able to identify and understand others' feelings) and the ability of an individual to distinguish oneself from others, a characteristic that evolved independently in several branches of animals, the scientists said.

Due to elephants' social complexity, it had previously been predicted that they would be able to recognize themselves in mirrors.

"Elephants have been tested in front of mirrors before, but previous studies used relatively small mirrors kept out of the elephants' reach. This study is the first to test the animals in front of a huge mirror they could touch, rub against and try to look behind," Plotnik said.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team