Does This Make My Nose Look Big?
Considered an indicator of self-awareness, mirror self-recognition (MSR) has long seemed limited to humans and apes. In both phylogeny and human ontogeny, MSR is thought to correlate with higher forms of empathy and altruistic behavior … We report a successful MSR elephant study and report striking parallels in the progression of responses to mirrors among apes, dolphins, and elephants. These parallels suggest convergent cognitive evolution most likely related to complex sociality and cooperation.
Some scientists took a more skeptical view, reflecting the controversy that has long engulfed the field of animal intelligence generally and the meaning of the mirror recognition test in particular. “Far too much has been made of a very trivial task in all these mirror experiments, and it has lately reached some dizzyingly bizarre heights,” said Robin Dunbar of the University of Liverpool in England.