Experts say dolphins may detect human pregnancies

By Sarah Mayberry, M.P.H., Local 4 Health Producer, @4goodhealth
Published On: Jul 11 2013 12:01:40 PM EDT

Brian Rokus/CNN

Think you might be pregnant?  Forget the drug store test or ultrasound. Just ask a dolphin!

Okay, that might not be the most practical way to find out, but experts tell LiveScience the marine mammals known best for their high-flying flips may also be able to detect that a woman is carrying a fetus.

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

Dolphins use a method called echolocation to locate objects in water.  The buzzing and clicking sounds they emit bounce back, allowing them to create a mental picture of the object.   It's the same principle that helps doctors create images of the developing fetus during traditional ultrasound scans.

Whether dolphins would understand that what they're "seeing" is a baby isn't clear, but experts believe it's possible.

"We know from other studies that they are very good at going from a visual image to an acoustic image," and vice versa, Marino said.

LiveScience says there are also reports suggesting dolphins take a special interest in pregnant women.

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