Dolphins Have and Respond to Names


Humans are proud to be one of the only species to have identifying names and words that separate them from the other members of the animal kingdom.  For a long time it was thought that humans were the only ones with a language.  But it recently has been found that now they are not the only ones with such capabilities.  Dolphins have now been found to use their unique whistling sounds to name and call each other furthering the boundaries of their intelligence.  Check out what DNews had to say about the study here.

Dolphins are known for having distinct whistles which only a single dolphin will have; similar to how humans have distinct voices.  These whistles can be used to help identify dolphins in large groups when a few groups meet.  But now it is thought that their whistles may be used for more than just separating them in a group.  National Geographic quoted a study that found that dolphins may in fact have names and use those names to separate themselves from other dolphins.  In the study, scientists played recordings of a dolphin’s supposed name and found that almost all the time the dolphin would respond to the recording with a sort of answering response.  The dolphin also responded slightly to recordings of dolphins from their same population.  However, when sounds were played from dolphins that were not a part of their group, the dolphin did not respond at all meaning that the dolphin could tell the difference between the recordings. This proved that the whistles dolphins make were not nonsense, but in fact driven by a want to communicate with each other on a higher level.

Dolphins have also been found to form close relationships within their given group and with the findings from this new study, scientists have a better explanation why.  The ocean is a very big, cloudy, and dark environment and visibility is not always the best for the animals that live it.  Having unique sounds that help separate animal groups and even individual dolphins means that it is easier to determine exactly which group member is around them and help them be alerted to any threats that may face them or the group they are with. In a 2006 PNAS study of dolphins, it was found that selection pressure from the need for individual recognition was the mostly likely cause of the vocal evolution of dolphins.  This backs up the reasoning behind why dolphins even have unique sounds in the first place. With this newer study,   scientists have even begun to question if dolphins are able to gossip and talk about other dolphins by using their names.

It is well known that dolphins are extremely smart; some might say that they are smart enough to  even get a college degreeDr Carl Sagan once noted that dolphins have been “reported to have learned English-up to fifty words used in correct context”.  It should be of no surprise that they have learned to use their whistles to separate each other in large groups and even give themselves names.  This study leads to question how intelligent dolphins really are and how much more we have to find out about their mental capabilities.

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