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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Hi, my name is Click, Whistle, Pop

dolphines recognize their own names

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, July 29, 2013/Categories: natural history, marine mammals

Animal communications are generating a great deal of interest. Whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals use distinct clicks, whistles, pops, and other sonic vocalizations that can be heard above and below water. What are they saying? New research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has produced exciting results important to animal self-recognition.

A new paper: Bottlenose dolphins can use learned vocal labels to address each other, was published this week. Biologists from Scotland's St. Andrews University applied a technique to identify whistles using criteria, such as their tendency to be repetitive and remain constant over time, to identify individual dolphin signatures.
According to the new research: "In animal communication, vocal labeling refers to incidents in which an animal consistently uses a specific acoustic signal when presented with a specific object or class of objects. Labeling with learned signals is a foundation of human language but is notably rare in nonhuman communication systems."

The dolphins were discovered to call out specific "names" when separated from a group and are the only mammals besides humans known to do this.
Also, when a recording of their own whistles was played underwater, dolphins responded immediately to their signature vocalization.


Bottlenose Dolphin (credit: University of St. Andrews, Scotland)

A marine biologist at Woods Hole in Massachusetts commented on the research: "a big question is whether dolphins use whistles in the way we use words but this is the first example we have of naming being used in the animal kingdom.”

The opportunity to finally start decoding communications of other mammals is exciting stuff. Stay tuned!

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