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: Too many chefs: Smaller groups exhibit more accurate decision-making

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

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

2 hours ago

Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...