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Whales share human brain cells

Whales share human brain cells

Whales share human brain cells
November 27, 2006

Whales share brain cells with humans according to a new study published online November 27, 2006 in The Anatomical Record, the official journal of the American Association of Anatomists. The research suggests that “certain cetaceans and hominids may have evolved side by side.”

Examining brains from various cetaceans, the group of marine mammals that includes whales and dolphins, Patrick R. Hof and Estel Van der Gucht of the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, NY found substantial variability between the cell structure of the cortex in humpback whales compared to toothed whales like dolphins. The authors say that “these differences may indicate differences in brain function and behavior in aquatic species that are not yet understood,” according to a news release from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The release continues,

“In spite of the relative scarcity of information on many cetacean species, it is important to note in this context that sperm whales, killer whales, and certainly humpback whales, exhibit complex social patterns that included intricate communication skills, coalition-formation, cooperation, cultural transmission and tool usage,” the authors state. “It is thus likely that some of these abilities are related to comparable histologic complexity in brain organization in cetaceans and in hominids.”

“Cetacean and primate brains may be considered as evolutionary alternatives in neurobiological complexity and as such, it would be compelling to investigate how many convergent cognitive and behavioral features result from largely dissimilar neocortical organization between the two orders,” they conclude.

“The Structure of the Cerebral Cortex of the Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae (Cetacea, Mysticeti, Balaenopteridae),” Patrick R. Hof, Estel Van der Gucht, The Anatomical Record, Published Online: November 27, 2006. (DOI: 10.1002/ar.a.20407).

This article is based on a news release from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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