Scientist may have finally understood the significance of a dolphin whistle, new research has revealed. This is exciting as it is teaching researchers how dolphins talk to each other.
Many surfers, swimmers and scientists have been privy to the unique sound a dolphin sends out across the ocean. Dolphins emit a “signature whistle”, a call unique to each individual dolphin. This whistle serves for the dolphins when large pods gather at sea. This whistle is no new idea, however these distinct vocal patterns have taken on a new meaning.
The distinctive dolphin call has been a mystery to scientists for years, the purpose of the distinctive dolphin call remaining veiled. This has been shaken up with fresh research that reveals a dolphin answers to a re-play of their own personal signature call. This is some proof for scientists that dolphins do indeed have intelligent communication and interaction. Many are surprised by this research promoting the idea that another species may have a similar level of communicative intelligence ‘as humans do.’
The new research is woven with precious findings, “presenting the first case of naming in mammals, providing a clear parallel between dolphin and human communication,” comments biologist Stephanie King, author of the new study.
The team went out on a boat off the coast of Eastern Scotland and recorded the individual calls of the wild dolphins in the pod that greeted them. The calls were recorded and played back to the same pod. The dolphins responded in a manner that recognized the call and called back. They also were interested and replied to the calls of the other dolphins in the same pod. The study shows that when calls from a foreign pod were played to the pod, they ignored the calls and made no answers.
The distinct dolphin call expresses a dolphin’s self (identity), disposition and motivation. At just a few months of age, the baby dolphin births his/her own whistle. This whistle develops with the dolphin and aids as a way of communication as well as how the dolphin relates to his/herself both as an individual and in the pod. This call stays with them as they mature and some males have been seen to shift their call to match that of an ally. Dolphins are also known to mimic each other’s calls, something the research team is well aware of. They were explicit in revealing that the dolphins only responded to the pre-recorded sound of their own individual call, or that of a call from an individual within the pod.
“Our new study really demonstrates that signature whistles are used like names,” says lead researcher Stephanie King. “It’s now clear that signature whistles have meaning, in that they’re labels for particular individuals and can be used by animals to address a social companion.”
Dolphins may indeed be teaching researchers how they talk. Of course, there is still room for speculation in any scientist’s mind, however, as what we thought we knew about the world 100 years ago strikes a cold contrast with what we think we know now, anything could be revealed with the continuing open exploration science and technology are offering.