HomeNewsScienceHow Elephants See Themselves in the Mirror

    How Elephants See Themselves in the Mirror

    Published on

    Elephants are among the most intelligent and social animals on Earth, but do they have a sense of self? A new study suggests that they do, by demonstrating that they can recognize themselves in a mirror.

    Mirror self-recognition (MSR) is considered a sign of self-awareness, a complex cognitive ability that involves understanding that one exists as an individual, separate from others. MSR has been observed in only a few other species, such as humans, apes and dolphins.

    elephant calf
    Photo by Anthony : ) on

    In a 2006 experiment, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Emory University tested three adult female Asian elephants at the Bronx Zoo with a giant mirror that they could touch, rub against and try to look behind. One of the elephants, named Happy, showed clear evidence of MSR by touching a mark on her head that was only visible in her reflection.

    “It seems to verify for us she definitely recognized herself in the mirror,” said Joshua Plotnik, one of the researchers behind the study.

    photo of woman looking at the mirror
    Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

    The other two elephants, Maxine and Patty, did not touch the mark on their heads, but they did show other behaviors that indicated they understood the mirror. For example, they explored the other side of the mirror, waved their trunks around and moved their heads in and out of the mirror view.

    “Elephants have been tested in front of mirrors before, but previous studies used relatively small mirrors kept out of the elephants’ reach,” 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.”

    The researchers argued that the fact that all the elephants were interested in the mirror strongly suggests they have the capacity for self-awareness, but that this particular test may not be an appropriate measure of MSR for elephants. This is because elephants regularly cover themselves with dust, changing their appearance.

    “This would seem to be a trait common to and independently evolved by animals with large, complex brains, complex social lives and known capacities for empathy and altruism, even though the animals all have very different kinds of brains,” said Diana Reiss, another researcher involved in the study.

    The study has implications for elephant conservation and welfare, as it highlights their cognitive abilities and emotional needs. Elephants are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching and human-elephant conflict.

    “Hopefully this will encourage people to protect elephants,” Reiss said.

    Leave a Reply

    Latest articles

    How the Heritage Foundation is preparing for a second Trump presidency

    The Heritage Foundation, a powerful conservative think tank based in Washington, has been ramping...

    U.S. Navy thwarts Iranian attempts to seize oil tankers in Gulf of Oman

    The U.S. Navy has intervened to stop Iranian Navy ships from seizing two oil...

    Melatonin Use in Children: A Growing Trend with Risks and Alternatives

    Melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, is widely used by parents...

    Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 – How a festival of peace and love turned into a disaster of violence and misogyny

    The Woodstock '69 festival is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and...

    More like this

    A Journey Into The Dark And Mysterious World Of The Morton Salt Mine Under Lake Erie

    The Morton Salt Mine is one of the most remarkable places in the world....

    How a novel sparked a wild theory about bird migration to the moon

    Bird migration is one of the most amazing natural phenomena, but it wasn't always...

    Are We Just Simulations in a Cosmic Computer Game?

    Have you ever wondered if the world around you is real or just a...
    %d bloggers like this: