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Dolphins and whales experience pleasure
Date:8/14/2014

Sam Ridgway has spent most of his life learning about dolphins and whales. Over his five-decade career he has asked these cetaceans various questions, including how deep they can dive and how depth affects their hearing. As he trained each animal to answer his questions, he rewarded them with tasty fish treats, and each time that they received a reward he remembers that they squealed. Initially he thought that the squeals were food signals, where animals communicate the presence of food to nearby members of their species. It was only when his wife Jeanette suggested that the squeals reminded her of delighted children that he began to ponder whether there was more to the cetaceans' cries: could they be genuine expressions of delight? Ridgway publishes his discovered that the time delay between dolphins and whales receiving a reward and their squeals is the same as the delay between a pleasant experience and dopamine release suggesting that dolphins and whales experience pleasure in the Journal of Experimental biology at http://jeb.biologists.org.

Humans train animals by rewarding them with tasty treats and trainers couple the reward with a sound, such as a buzz or a whistle. Once the animal has mastered the task, the trainer stops dispensing food, relying instead on the whistle or buzzer to inform the animal that it has performed successfully and that it will be rewarded with food later. What impressed Ridgway was that even though there was no food reward at the time, the whales and dolphins squealed in response to the sound that substituted for the food reward. And when he trained dolphins and beluga whales to switch off a sound after diving hundreds of metres, Ridgway was impressed that the animals produced the same squeals of victory when the sound stopped. 'The [squealing] behaviour had transferred over to another stimulus that wasn't food', says Ridgway. The behaviour also reminded him of st
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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-012-234-25525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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