About a year ago, scientists found that dolphins in captivity seemed to have ”signature whistles” or names for each other. According to the previous study, dolphins would use a specific whistle to refer to other dolphins. However, a new finding published at the end of July takes it a step further.
Scientists in St Andrews Bay off the coast of Scotland studied the behavior in a group of bottle nosed dolphins. They played the dolphins their own whistle “names” as well as the names of dolphins in their social group and dolphins of unrelated social groups. The actual whistle calls were tuned slightly to mimic a different “voice”. This removed the possibility that the dolphins were merely recognized the call of a familiar dolphin. When the dolphins heard their own name, they whistled it back in recognition and swam towards the sound. When they heard the whistle names of familiar dolphins, they showed a slight response indicative of recognition, and when they heard the names of dolphins they didn’t recognize, they showed no response.
This proves yet again, that we know relatively little about these intelligent creatures. The signature whistles only account for about half of dolphin whistle sounds, leaving plenty of room for research into the possible meaning of other dolphin vocalizations. We are excited to see what scientists find next!