Dolphins Whistling Studied by Scientists

Scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a team of American colleagues including researchers at the Walt Disney World Resort recently published their study findings on the whistling of both wild and captive bottlenose dolphins.

Earlier research found that bottlenose dolphins name themselves, with dolphins having a signature whistle. They learn their individual whistles from their mother. The new findings show that the dolphins also say the names of certain other dolphins.

For the current study the marine scientists analyzed the acoustic recordings of dolphin signature whistles that scientists with the Sarasota Dolphin Research program made of more than 250 wild bottlenose dolphins briefly captured between 1984 and 2009 in Sarasota Bay. They also recorded the signature whistles of four captive dolphins and made detailed observations of their behavior while whistling.

The new study suggests that dolphins are mimicking those they are close to and want to see again. They also found that dolphins introduce slight changes into copies, avoiding confusion for listeners. The copies were clearly directed towards the owner of the original signature whistle by being produced immediately after the owner of the whistle called first, a behavior known as vocal matching.

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