Dolphins off coast of Zanzibar. Photos: cinoby / iStock

Whales and dolphins are already known to live in communities, play and communicate with one another using sophisticated sounds. A study published this week in Nature Ecology and Evolution reports those social behaviors are tied to their bigger brain size.

Why it matters: Human language and empathy — and in turn the formation of large, complex societies and cultures — are hypothesized to be the result of the brain expanding. Dolphins, whales and other cetaceans are far from humans on the evolutionary tree and live in very different environments. If this same coevolution of brains and social behavior and structures is true for them, it may help tease out what changes in brain size in humans are due to social behavior versus the environment.

The findings: Researchers looked at records of whale and dolphin behaviors — for example, caregiving, and learning from and playing with one another. They found cetaceans with larger brains live in more structured social groups and that brain size itself "predicts the breadth of social and cultural behaviors."

Go deeper: University of Manchester's Susanne Shultz, an author of the study, wrote in the Conversation about the work and open questions about species like the large-brained beaked whales that weren't studied because little is known about their behavior deep in the ocean.

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Trump considering order on pre-existing condition protections, which already exist

President Trump. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced on Friday he will pursue an executive order requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, something that is already law.

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act already requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down that very law — including its pre-existing condition protections.

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 19,266,406 — Total deaths: 718,530 — Total recoveries — 11,671,253Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 4,928,802 — Total deaths: 161,052 — Total recoveries: 1,623,870 — Total tests: 60,415,558Map.
  3. Politics: Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus — Massachusetts pauses reopening after uptick in coronavirus cases.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid

President Trump. Photo: Jim watson/Getty Images

President Trump, speaking from a podium at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Friday announced that he is prepared to issue executive orders suspending payroll taxes and extending enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of 2020, and halting student loan interest and payments indefinitely.

Why it matters: The impending orders come after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon. But Trump said he remains committed to striking a deal with Congress on a broader stimulus package before signing the orders.