Scientists say dolphins call out to
each other 'by name'
live in an environment where they need an efficient system to stay
in touch, scientists have uncovered evidence that dolphins call each
other by "name." These marine mammals use a unique whistle to
identify each other, researchers claim.
The recent study was the first time that the
animals response to being addressed by their "name" has been
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online):
Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland says
they have discovered that when the dolphins hear their own call
played back to them, they respond.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Vincent Janik, from the
university's Sea Mammal Research Unit, says "(Dolphins) live in
this three-dimensional environment, offshore without any kind of
landmarks and they need to stay together as a group."
It's long been theorized that dolphins use distinctive whistles
in much the same way that humans use names. Previous studies
found that these calls were used frequently. Dolphins in the
same groups were able to learn and copy the unusual sounds.
The recent study was the first time that the animals response to
being addressed by their "name" has been studied.
Researchers recorded a group of wild bottlenose dolphins,
capturing each animal's signature sound and then played these
calls back using underwater speakers.
"We played signature whistles of animals in the group, we also
played other whistles in their repertoire and then signature
whistles of different populations - animals they had never seen
in their lives," Janik explains.
Individual dolphins only responded to their own calls, by
sounding their whistle back.
The team believes the dolphins are displaying human-like
behavior, i.e., when they hear their name, they answer.
Janik says that this skill probably came about in order to help
the animals to stick together in a group in their vast
"Most of the time they can't see each other, they can't use
smell underwater, which is a very important sense in mammals for
recognition, and they also don't tend to hang out in one spot,
so they don't have nests or burrows that they return to," Janik
The researchers believe this is the first time this has been
seen in an animal, although other studies have suggested some
species of parrot may use sounds to label others in their group.
Janik notes that understanding how this skill evolved in
parallel in very different groups of animals could tell us more
about how communication developed in humans.