Cross-modal approaches to the study of sensory perception, social recognition, cognition, and mental representation have proved fruitful in humans as well as in a variety of other species including toothed whales in revealing equivalencies that suggest that different sensory stimuli associated with objects or individuals may effectively evoke mental representations that are, respectively, object based or individual based. Building on established findings of structural equivalence in the form of spontaneous recognition of complex shapes across the modalities of echolocation and vision and behavior favoring identity echoic–visual cross-modal relationships over associative echoic–visual cross-modal relationships, examinations of transitive inference equivalencies from initially learned associations of visual and acoustic stimuli, and recent work exam- ining spontaneous cross-modal social recognition of individual identity across acoustic and gustatory chemical modalities (i.e., the equivalence relationships among an individual’s characteristics), we examine the history, utility and implications for cross-modal research in cetacean cognition. Drawing from research findings on bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales as well as other species we suggest future directions for cetacean cross-modal research to further illuminate understanding how structural and individual sensory equivalencies lead to object-centered and individual-centered mental representations, as well as to explore the potential for practical applications related to cetacean conservation.
Bruck, J.N., Pack, A.A. Understanding across the senses: cross-modal studies of cognition in cetaceans. Anim Cogn 25, 1059–1075 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-022-01684-8
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