Orcas mourn their dead, right whales have accents and dolphins like to have fun (and they "talk" in their sleep). Because of their special intelligence and culture, marine mammals should have their own set of rights, researchers attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting here said.

"Because of their cultural sophistication these are enormously vulnerable individuals," said Lori Marino, who studies brain and behavioral evolution in mammals at Emory University in Atlanta. "We have all the evidence to show that there is an egregious mismatch between how cetaceans are and how they are perceived and still treated by our species."

Giving rights to cetaceans, the name for the group of marine mammals that includes dolphins and whales, would allow them better treatment under the law, including making sure they have healthy habitats and enough food to hunt and survive, as well as getting them out of captivity.

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