Dolphins at Sea ‘Greet’ Each Other

0 Comments

THE GIST

  • Bottlenose dolphins appear to engage in formal greeting ceremonies while at sea.
  • The ceremonies involve exchanges of signature whistles, which likely contain information such as name, sex, age, health status, intent and more.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Caribbean Sea near Roatan Island. – Corbis

Bottlenose dolphins swap signature whistles with each other when they meet in the open sea, a new study reports, suggesting that these marine mammals engage in something akin to a human conversation.

Earlier research found that signature whistles are unique for each dolphin, with the marine mammals essentially naming themselves and communicating other basic information.

A signature dolphin whistle in human speak, might be comparable to, “Hi, I’m George, a large, three-year-old dolphin in good health who means you no harm.”

BLOG: Amazing Dolphin Stampede Captured on Video

The latest study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to show how free-ranging dolphins in the wild use these whistles at sea. The findings add to the growing body of evidence that dolphins possess one of the most sophisticated communication systems in the animal kingdom, perhaps even surpassing that of humans.

“In my mind, the term ‘language’ describes the human communication system; it is specific to us,” co-author Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, told Discovery News. “It is more fruitful to ask whether there are communication systems with similar complexity. I think the dolphin system is probably as complex as it gets among animals.”

Janik and colleague Nicola Quick studied how bottlenose dolphins in St. Andrews Bay, off the coast of northeast Scotland, communicate with each other. While in a small, quiet boat, the researchers followed the wild dolphins and recorded their vocalizations.

Analysis of the observations and recordings found that the dolphins usually swam together in a group moving slowly and relatively quietly.

“When another group approaches, usually one or more animals start to produce their signature whistles,” Janik said. “We then hear dolphins from the other group calling back with their own signatures, and after or during this counter-calling the animals get together as one group and continue swimming together. Shortly after the union of the groups, they become much more quiet again.”

NEWS: Dolphins Team Up To Get the Girl

Most animals have some sort of communication system that allows them to make similar introductions and meetings, but dolphins are unique in that they can invent and copy new sounds. This is “unlike non-human primates, who are stuck with their species-specific repertoire,” he said.

The researchers also noticed that usually just one dolphin from each group would emit a signature whistle before the other group members would join the second group. This might mean that dolphins elect a “spokesman” to represent the entire group during meetings. Such an individual may be an older dolphin, Janik said, but he thinks the other dolphins are not fully silent, and may be using echolocation instead of whistles.

“We don’t know whether echolocation works in this way, but it seems like a viable hypothesis,” he said. “In that case, the whistle exchange is more of a greeting ceremony that communicates a friendly intention and is perhaps not needed to identify the group after the first introduction.”

Dolphins at a distance may rely more upon sounds and echolocation for their communications than visual, scent and other signals. This is likely due to their marine environment and social structure. A dolphin can hear the whistle of another dolphin over a distance of about six miles and with lots of noise in the background.

Heidi Harley, a bottlenose dolphin expert who is a professor of psychology at the New College of Florida, told Discovery News that she believes the findings are key to understanding how dolphins use signature whistles.

“Now we know that dolphins in groups use signature whistles before they join each other,” Harley said. “This is an important piece in the puzzle that we’ve been constructing about signature whistles.”

She added, “I was surprised to learn that the exchanges appeared to be between only a single individual in each group.”

SOURCE:
http://news.discovery.com/animals/dolphins-greet-each-other-120228.html

By: Jennifer Viegas, February 28, 2012

By

Tags: , , ,


Readers Comments (0)





Powered by sweet Captcha

Disclaimer & Fair Use
This website may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in efforts to advance the understanding of humanity's challenges and ideally to help uncover valid, achievable solutions for those challenges [self-imposed evolutionary limitations]. This website preserves & archives valuable information that is now more often being censored or wiped from its original source. Thus, we find this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Reading the articles posted on this website represents such a request for information. Consistent with this notice you are welcome to make 'fair use' of anything you find in the archives. However, if you wish to use copyrighted material from this website for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. You can read more about 'fair use' and US Copyright Law at the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.