Researchers record dolphin 'conversation' revealing possible spoken language

September 13, 2016 by Bob Yirka, report

Credit: Wkipedia
(—A team of researchers with Russia's Karadag Scientific Station–Nature Reserve of RAS has used specially developed underwater microphones to capture for the first time what they claim to be a human-like conversation between two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins. In their paper uploaded to the open access site St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal: Physics and Mathematics, the team, led by Vyacheslav Ryabov, describe the pulses generated by the sea creatures and why they believe what they heard was an actual conversation.

Humans have suspected for centuries that have more advanced communications than other animals—tales of their conversational abilities have been reported by sailors from around the globe. More recently, scientists have been listening to sounds the underwater mammals produce and trying to decipher their meaning—some have claimed they have found that certain pulsed clicks and whistles correspond to certain activities or observations, but to date, none have been able to prove that the dolphins actually carry on conversations. In this new effort, the researchers believe they have come close.

To gain a better perspective on dolphin communication, the researchers developed a two-channel hydrophone recording system in the frequency band up to 220 kHz with a dynamic range of 81 dB meant specifically to capture all the sounds produced by a pair of dolphins (named Yasha and Yana) housed in a research pool. They began by recording sounds from just one of the dolphins at a time to match the pulses made to each individual animal—capturing their unique voices. Then they recorded the two animals as they appeared to hold a conversation near the side of the pool. They noted that the animals took turns "speaking" while the other listened—back and forth emitting short pulses of clicks that varied in pitch and volume, which the researchers suggest were similar to words used in human communication—they describe the conversation as eerily reminiscent of two people having a chat.

The researchers were not able to decipher the messages the dolphins relayed to one another, of course, but suggest their recordings indicate that dolphins are able to communicate in a highly developed spoken language.

Explore further: Bottlenose dolphins use specific whistles as names

More information: Vyacheslav A. Ryabov, The study of acoustic signals and the supposed spoken language of the dolphins, St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal: Physics and Mathematics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.spjpm.2016.08.004

This paper continues studies in the problem of animal language by registering acoustic signals from two quasi-stationary Black Sea bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) using a two-channel system in the frequency band up to 220 kHz with a dynamic range of 81 dB. The packs of mutually noncoherent pulses (NP) generated by the dolphins were matched to the animals. The waveforms and the spectra of these pulses changed from one pulse to another in each pack. In this connection, a suggestion was made that the set of spectral components of each pulse is a 'word' of the dolphin's spoken language and a pack of NPs is a sentence. The paper studied the NP peculiarities in the context of the characteristics of the human spoken language.

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2 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2016
Well, come back when you can transcribe the "conversation", because in spite of the pattern of the "talk" it could simply have been two animals chirping at each other like birds and not saying much of anything at all.
not rated yet Sep 13, 2016
pretty much like most "talk", ever.
Sep 13, 2016
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2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2016
Isn't it https://www.thegu...-dolphin - or the world really returns to WWW II era?

What the crap are you talking about? An article discussing one guy's plans to talk to dolphins in the future in underwater dolphin lounges proves that this has been known for years?
not rated yet Sep 14, 2016
While at a dolphin display area at an an aquarium I did hear the clicking, or ticking sounds. Since, this was a reach in and pet type of display - if they moved into your area and where I was they were 30 meters away approx. Anyway, I took two US coins, Quarters, which have ridged edges and rubbed the edges together in a few shorts "pulses." It did attract the attention of 1 which swam over to the spot I was at.

For me it was fun, yet displays like those really make me wonder if we are caging individuals that do have communication skills and the assorted things that go along with communicating: happiness, well being, fear, anger, wanting...
Sep 14, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2016
I have an idea! Why not design an experiment/challange where you can predict roughly what has to be communicated between two dolphins? I'm thinking it could be a certain coloroed button that one dolphin has to push to give both dolphins a fish to eat, but where only the other dolphin (the one that can't push it) gets to know which one is the correct one. This should encourage them to communicate what to do and specifically what colored button to press. And by doing this kind of experiment several times we should be able to extract what clicks/sounds represent for intance the word for "red". And so on we could build up a vocabulary of dolphin-words. What do you think about that?

This could of course be applied to many other somewhat intelligent species of animals as well I guess. I had this idea about ten years ago and it always pops up again when I read news like this. Perhaps it could even be tested with two household cats! Mjeauu! =)
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2016
Dolphins are smarter than most readers here, I guess...
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Sep 14, 2016
Dolphins are smarter than most readers here, I guess...

why is that a "guess"?
5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2016
coloroed button that one dolphin has to push to give both dolphins a fish to eat, but where only the other dolphin (the one that can't push it) gets to know which one is the correct one.

Click, click, whistle, click - translated:
"Oh! hey! Press the button that makes the human scratch his head and make the confused face."
"You mean the red button?"
"No you idiot, the red one sends out the fish. The other button."
"Ah. Done. Did he do the confused face?"
"heheheh, Yep!"
not rated yet Oct 16, 2016
"Dolphins are smarter than most readers here, I guess..." I would not say that. Most readers might not even read the comments, having been turned off by the general stupidity of certain posters. Even those who do read the comments might not be members, or just don't comment at all.

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