Can Dolphins Detect Pregnancy In Women? Is This True Or False?
In addition to many any of the amazing attributes and characteristics of dolphins, people working closely with dolphins observe that they can detect pregnancy in women.
What do the experts have to say about this though?
Remember that one of the most important attributes of dolphins is their echolocation. By emitting sound waves that bounce off nearby objects, dolphins and many other sea mammals can determine the distance, shape, and size of these objects.
That’s how they locate prey. Also, that’s how they navigate in murky waters where their eyes are of little or no use. Some species of dolphins are even blind! For example the South Asian River dolphins.
How Can Dolphins Detect Pregnancy?
The ultrasound machines that doctors use when monitoring the progress of developing fetuses works on the same principle with dolphin echolocation. The machine sends a sound (humans can’t hear it) into the expectant mother and bounces back to create an image of the fetus.
In fact, the ultrasound machine and other devices like military sonar where developed after studying echolocation in cetaceans.
So it makes sense, say researchers, that these sea creatures can tell if you’re pregnant.
“I think it’s extremely plausible [dolphins] would be able to detect a fetus, however, you’d have to really do a well-controlled study to make a definitive statement.” – Lori Marino, Neuroscientist, Emory University, Atlanta.
Another scientist Malcolm Nicolson also agreed that dolphins may detect human pregnancy and even sense the heartbeat of the fetus. But he pointed out that this is still speculation. So, researchers will need more definitive tests.
Dolphin “Excitement” Around Pregnant Women
Other reports indicate that dolphins are particularly interested in pregnant women.
Pregnant women in water claim that the animals will swim up to them and make buzzing sounds near the women’s stomach region. Lori Marino likens this buzzing sound to a squeaky door and it’s a form of very concentrated echolocation.
Dolphins buzz when they want to focus on something or stimulate another dolphin. They’ll put their snout against the skin of the other dolphin (or in this case woman).
Furthermore, dolphins have been observed buzzing around the bellies of other pregnant dolphins in their pod.
Just as ultrasound images give parents an image of their developing babies, echolocation could give dolphins a mental picture of the fetus.
How Accurately Can Dolphins Detect Pregnancy?
From observation of dolphins in the wild, they are likely not born with their echolocation ability.
On the contrary, they develop it over time though we don’t know for sure. However, baby dolphins make a lot of vocalizations that sound nothing like those of older dolphins. These sounds change as they grow older, so it’s plausible to assume they learn echolocation as they grow.
In addition, previous studies show that dolphins can perceive shapes even through an opaque barrier. Therefore, detecting a baby in utero may not be too much of a problem for them.
Female trainers working with dolphins have also reported a change in the dolphins when they got pregnant. The animals displayed more interest in the women’s belly area.
“It would seem logical that they would have the potential to discriminate between different humans who are pregnant or not” – Mike Walsh, aquatic animal veterinarian, University of Florida.
However, they may not know exactly what they are seeing inside the pregnant woman says Walsh.
Other Claims About Dolphin Echolocation
Even though we have established from all indications that there’s a higher chance than not that dolphins can detect pregnancy, it’s important to issue some words of caution on how humans harness this ability.
Some recent trends in the uses of dolphin echolocation are borderline dangerous and ill-advised. For instance:
- Dolphin-assisted natural birth. Giving birth near dolphins is a trend that is gaining momentum in natural birth circles. But note that though dolphins are generally friendly to humans, they are powerful wild creatures and are known for getting “excited” around pregnant women. So this may be a bad idea.
- People in some quarters claim that dolphins can detect serious ailments.
- Others believe dolphins can treat illnesses as severe as cancerous tumors!
Whatever the case may be, if further studies are able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that dolphins can detect pregnancy, it would be evidence that we still have much to learn about our aquatic friends.