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Cindy Maddera

I think all of us at one time or other has been caught preening in front of a mirror. This is a basic behavioral trait. We share this trait with primates and dolphins. Primates and dolphins recognize themselves in mirrors. This behavior is thought to be related to empathy. Now a research team from Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University has found evidence that elephants can also recognize themselves in mirrors. I heard this story on NPR earlier in the week and was fascinated. The study included three female elephants from the Bronx Zoo. Two of the elephants did just the basic look in the mirror-understand-that’s-me thing, but the other one named Happy actually seemed to preen before the mirror. She was more concerned about her appearance then the other two.

It’s not too surprising that elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors. They do live highly social complex lives and have been known to show empathy towards their fellow elephants.