Can Dolphins Detect Pregnancy in Women?

Using a specific form of echolocation, dolphins may be able to detect the presence of a fetus inside a pregnant woman, experts say.

A dolphin can emit sounds that bounce off objects in the environment, returning to the dolphin and helping it identify its surroundings. This echolocation acts as a form of ultrasound, the same as the technology that doctors use to image developing human fetuses.

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In one particular form of echolocation, a dolphin hones in on a subject by putting its snout directly up to it and buzzing. Dolphins have been known to take particular interest in pregnant women, buzzing near their stomachs. Some experts believe it may be possible that dolphins can detect the change in a familiar woman's echo profile when she becomes pregnant.

The ability of dolphins to detect human fetuses in the womb has not been scientifically proven, but studies have shown that they can perceive objects in boxes and through other barriers, so the idea that they could create an ultrasound image of a fetus in utero isn't so far-fetched.

"I think it's extremely plausible [dolphins] would be able to detect a fetus," said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. "You'd have to really do a well-controlled study to make a definitive statement," she added.

Dolphins buzz pregnant dolphins as well as pregnant humans, so it only makes sense to believe they may be able to detect their own fetuses as well.

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Can Dolphins Detect Pregnancy in Women?