Dolphins recognize voices of other dolphins, research finds

Jan 19, 2011 By Ted Gregory

It might be tough for dolphins to remember faces, considering they always look like they're smiling. But new research indicates they apparently never forget a voice.

That's one finding from a research project by University of Chicago doctoral student Jason Bruck that represents, he says, "a decoding of their whole - at least the start of that."

Bruck, who is working with dolphins at Brookfield Zoo and five other facilities, plays recorded whistles of dolphins that had been in the same tank 20 years earlier but hadn't seen their tank mates in that time. When that happens, the dolphins swim toward the signal. When he plays the whistles of unfamiliar dolphins, the signal is ignored or, in some cases, imitated.

Based on detailed observations of dolphins and multiple underwater microphones, Bruck's research also suggests that dolphins are able to determine family relationships of other dolphins through whistles, and that mother "cluck like chickens" to call their calves.

One dolphin even adopted the local dialect of whistling when he resided in Brookfield for a year, said Bruck, who started the project in 2007.

Maybe it's no surprise, but females appear better at whistle interpretation than males, he said.

"The ladies are keeping track of who's who," Bruck said, "and the boys are like, 'whatever.'"

Explore further: Yo-yo weight fluctuation has little influence on the health of fruit flies

5 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Coastal dolphins quieter than thought

Nov 05, 2010

Dolphins are thought to be able to communicate with each other over vast expanses of ocean, between distances as far as 15 miles apart. Studies of dolphin whistles have suggested that they should carry that far in water, ...

Dolphins use diplomacy in their communication

Jun 09, 2010

Until now, the scientific community had thought that whistles were the main sounds made by these mammals, and were unaware of the importance and use of burst-pulsed sounds. Researchers from the Bottlenose ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.