Sentience

On the brink

Diving is a recreational pastime, meant to offer pleasure and respite from our hectic work schedules and the relentless flood of troubling news that seems to worsen daily.

We have always strived to write about and focus on the wonderful adventures, the beauty of the underwater realm, and to provide educational infotainment that enhances our experiences and appreciation of what lies beneath the surface.

A return to the “old normal” in the dive industry

We have recently returned from another DEMA Show, and it is heartening to witness the dive industry’s resurgence following the pandemic. The show felt like a return to the “old normal.” However, there is an intriguing duality at play here—the old is becoming the new normal in the dive industry.

With nearly three decades of experience in the dive industry, I may be considered a senior member by conventional standards. Yet, at many dive shows, it does not quite feel that way. Amid the attendees, you will find plenty of grey hair, a few walkers, and even some mobility scooters.

The price we have to pay

I have just booked my flight to the DEMA Show—the world’s largest dive show and industry event. When I made my reservation, I selected Scandinavian Airlines because they now offer travellers the option of purchasing sustainable biofuel as part of the flight ticket, so one can fly with lower CO2 emissions. I also opted to pay for a full carbon offset of my trip. It hurt my wallet, but it lifted the ache I had in my tummy. Being a transatlantic trip, it did not come cheap, but I do not see that one has a choice any longer.

I am therefore I think. Because I think, justice should also be extended to me?

Justice for All Sentient Beings?

Most of us will agree that we should not be cruel to animals but treat them nicely. We have animal welfare laws in place, for example, and pet owners will testify that their animals—often considered members of the family—have personalities and feelings. It is also widely accepted that a number of wild animals possess considerable intelligence and social skills, such as primates, marine animals, and some birds, to name a few.

social sharks
Research has begun to challenge the long-standing perception of sharks as solitary hunters, revealing instead a complex social structure that requires a high level of cognitive function.

Sharks as social and sentient beings

Recent scientific research has begun to challenge the long-standing perception of sharks as solitary hunters. Rather, it reveals their complex social structure that is borne out of a high level of cognitive function.

In fact, these studies suggest that sharks possess a level of social intelligence, problem-solving skills and even emotional intelligence that far surpass previous beliefs, offering a fresh perspective on their behaviour and potential sentience.

Giant Pacific Octopus - photo by Andrey Bizyukin
Giant Pacific Octopus interact with divers

Do octopuses have an emotional life?

Octopuses have intrigued scientists for years, because they have both long- and short-term memory, they remember solutions to problems, and they can go on to solve the same or similar problems. They have been known to climb aboard fishing boats and open holds in search of crabs. They can figure out mazes, open jars, and break out of their aquariums in search of food.

Their apparent problem-solving ability has led cephalopods to be recognised as intelligent.

Do octopuses dream?

Scientists used to think that only mammals and birds experienced different sleep states. More recent research, however, has revealed some reptiles and cuttlefish -- another cephalopod and relative of the octopus -- show non-REM and REM-like sleep.

A new study has found that the octopus has ‘quiet’ and ‘active sleep’, with different episode duration and periodicity, and experiences active sleep after a long episode of quiet sleep.

Sand Tiger Shark. Evidence of complex social behaviors in sharks and other elasmobranchs is sparse, however we are beginning to understand the importance of studying shark aggregations

Sand tiger sharks have a friendly side

While many sharks are solitary predators, some are known to live in groups and are suspected of engaging in complex social behaviors. Meanwhile others simply aggregate due to similar habitat, food, or mating requirements.

Using a novel tagging procedure, scientists in the United States, have discovered that some shark species like to spend their time mixing and chilling out together.

Observations made in 2006 and 2007 suggests that dolphins and whales may experience complex emotions once believed to be reserved for human beings such as deep grief at the death of a loved one

Do whales and dolphins grieve their dead?

A study by researchers from University of Milano-Bicocca describes observations of adults carrying dead calves and juveniles in 7 toothed cetaceans (odontocetes). The observation was based on 14 events from 3 oceans. The seven species studied were Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, Australian humpback dolphins, sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, and spinner dolphins.