Philosophy > Morality > Speciesism
Brainy Whales Get Emotional

02 December 2006
Andy Coghlan

THEY were touted as the brain cells that set humans and the other great apes apart from all other mammals. Now spindle neurons - the specialised brain cells thought to process our emotions and that may even enable us to love and suffer - have been found in whales. The discovery will stimulate debate both on the level of whale intelligence and on the ethics of hunting them.

Spindle cells, named for their long, spindle-shaped bodies, occur in the parts of the human brain linked with social organisation, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others and rapid "gut" reactions (see New Scientist, 19 June 2004, p 32). It turns out that they are in the same place in the brains of humpback whales, fin whales, killer whales and sperm whales. What's more, they have existed in whales for at least twice as long as we have had them, and ...

The complete article is 1323 words long.

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