"Some of the greatest minds on earth live in the seas." -Anthony Douglas Williams
Do you love the ocean? Does the sound of waves hitting the shore bring you peace of mind? Do you long to know more about the creatures living under the surfaces of the water? If so, you are definitely not alone. The ocean is a mysterious place with so many living creatures that we have yet to discover. And even the most recognisable sea mammals and fish still need to be studied in further detail.
Nevertheless, since 71% of the entire earth is water, salted and non-salted, humans need to dedicate time to researching aquatic creatures to understand better how we can save our oceans. Why is that? When we know what's in the deep waters and develop an appreciation for these mammals and other species, we are more likely to do all we can to avoid harming them.
You could save that the conservation of the flora and fauna of our planet starts with education.
Without further ado, in today's article, we shall focus our attention on one of our favourite aquatic species, the dolphin, and the wonderful biological discoveries that naturist Margaret Howe Lovatt uncovered about them.
What Do We Know About Dolphins?
Beloved by many all around the world, dolphins have fascinated people for decades. So much so that movies, television programmes, and books have been created to understand them better. Also, in many internationally renowned aquariums, swimming with dolphins or watching them perform tricks at shows is possible.
Nonetheless, what have humans uncovered about dolphins through their extensive scientific research? The following list highlights the most remarkable biological discoveries about dolphins:
- Extremely Intelligent: featured on many top ten or top five lists of the world's smartest creatures, dolphins have huge brains for their size and are known for displaying acute intelligence. Scientists have discovered that dolphins have a larger neocortex than people and are slightly behind the human brain in cognitive capacity. Many marine biologists have claimed that dolphins should qualify in the same moral standing as humans.
- Extroverted Creatures: after following their pods, various biologists have concluded that dolphins are some of the most social beings on the planet. They enjoy looking for food and carrying out multiple activities together as a group and never alone. They thoroughly enjoy each other's company and are also curious about other species of marine animals.
- Mating and Reproduction: unlike other land and sea mammals, dolphins do not have a specific time of the year or location when it comes to mating. After reaching the prime age of 11 years old for males and five to seven years old for females, dolphins are ready to mate and reproduce. Female dolphins carry the baby in their womb for 12 months, and it is quite common for the small dolphin to come out tail first.
- Diet: since they live in the sea, it is no surprise that dolphins prefer to eat small fishes, squid, shrimp, and other crustaceans. A dolphin's diet greatly depends on where it is living around the world. A fun fact about dolphins is that dolphins may eat between 17 and 35 pounds of food per day; that's a lot of grub! Dolphins are excellent hunters, and their teeth are perfect for grasping food.
- Types of Dolphins: according to extensive scientific research, there are 42 species of dolphins known to humankind. The different types of dolphins are grouped into families. The group known as oceanic dolphin is 38 species strong and larger than all others. There are four types of river dolphins that each belongs to their own family.
- Ideal Places to Spot Dolphins: since there are so many dolphins species, they can be found around the world. However, it is important to state that the overwhelming majority of dolphins prefer warmer climates. Distinct types of habitats may include harbours, bays, gulfs, and estuaries. Also, it isn't uncommon for pods of dolphins to veer off into the open ocean.
All of the previously mentioned facts about dolphins are the result of marine biologists' hard work around the world. But what about Margaret Howe Lovatt? In which ways did she want to expand on the wealth of knowledge previously acquired about dolphins? Keep on reading to find out more!
Another fantastic discovery is what Jane Goodall learned about chimps in Eastern Africa.
Who is Margaret Howe Lovatt?
Born in 1942, Margaret How Lovatt is a volunteer naturalist that spent a great portion of her life in the water studying aquatic creatures, especially dolphins. She is from the US Virgin Islands, specifically Saint Thomas.
Interested in marine life from a young age, Margaret Howe Lovatt lived in the Caribbean in her 20s and owned a laboratory to research dolphins. Although she never received any scientific training, Margaret Howe Lovatt was permitted by Gregory Bateson to observe the biological experiments taking place at the lab.
Margaret Howe Lovatt is best known internationally by scientists and biologists alike for observing Peter, the dolphin, with John C. Lilly.
Other impressive biological discoveries have taken place in the 20th century such as Wilmut and Campbell's cloning of Dolly the Sheep.
What Was the Purpose of Margaret Howe Lovatt's Research with Peter the Dolphin?
To understand Margaret Howe Lovatt's research with Peter, the dolphin, one must go back to the source and discover how it came about. Before Howe Lovatt was on the scene, John C. Lilly was a brilliant neuroscientist who was inspired in the early 1960s to study dolphins.
What did Lilly hope to discover? Following the discovery of how smart and social dolphins were and after Lilly's wife noticed that lab dolphins would mimic the researchers' tones in their conversations, John C. Lilly reasoned that not only could dolphins understand human speech but that they could additionally learn to utter simple words and phrases through their blowholes.
Upon receiving funding from NASA, Lilly moved to Saint Thomas's island to be closer to dolphin populations. After a few weeks, Lilly met Margaret Howe, an enthusiastic college dropout with love for animals, especially aquatic mammals. Before she became Howe Lovatt, Margaret Howe was convinced to help out John Lilly with his scientific research of seeing if dolphins could learn how to speak English through education.
Lilly arranged through funding that a Saint Thomas-based villa floor should be flooded to make comfortable accommodations for the dolphins and Howe; this would enable close contact and communication to record research. This "flooded house" became known as the "Dolphinarium". Three dolphins, Sissy, Pamela, and Peter, were brought from Marine Studios, where they were co-stars of the popular television show Flipper.
Of the three dolphins, Margaret Howe developed a bond with Peter, a young male bottlenose dolphin. After some weeks, Howe had some early success with Peter, the dolphin, and he was trained to make a close attempt at uttering the sounds and intonation of English words. Howe would have Peter repeat the words to her, and she would reward him with his favourite snack: fish treats!
Through twice-daily lessons and constant encouragement to utter the phrase "Hello Margaret", Howe Lovatt determined that it was tough for Peter to produce the "m" sound. Nonetheless, Peter tried to do so by making bubbles in the water.
Nonetheless, investors slowly became discouraged as no "significant" results were uncovered, and there wasn't enough proof that Peter the dolphin actually understood the words spoken and repeated to him. Despite all the time spent together in the "Dolphinarium" and through all the months of research, Peter the dolphin never actually constructed novel sequences of sound.
While not necessarily not successful, the research completed by Lilly and Howe Lovatt with the Saint Thomas dolphins has helped the biological world understand how brilliant, sympathetic, sociable and dolphins are as a species. Also, Howe Lovatt has stated that since her research in dolphin communication only lasted a few months before funding dried up, she believes that dolphins might one day hone their language skills with humans through patience and more diligent training.
Dian Fossey also had a strong bond with living creatures such as gorillas. Check out her discoveries by clicking this link.
The Importance of Dolphin Research and Conservation
Like all marine species, humans must continuously and tirelessly try harder to understand dolphins to better preserve them now and in the future. With global warming and climate issues posing a severe threat to our oceans, researchers are trying their best to study sea mammals such as dolphins and find ways to create sustainable and comfortable habitats.
Marine biologists have stated that learning more about dolphins is of paramount importance because they play a vital role in keeping their environment balanced. In what way? For instance, they eat other marine animals such as fish and squid and are a source of food for sharks. Without dolphins, the health and "normality" of the food chain would be disrupted.
Long story short, by protecting and caring about dolphins' well-being, we are keeping the oceans safe and healthy, which is of utmost importance for the billions of species and humans that depend on them.
In conclusion, it goes without saying that the fearless work Margaret Howe Lovatt completed rightly earns her the title of "the girl who talked to dolphins!"