New Study: Dolphins have names for each other too

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 4:57 pm | Updated: 1:12 pm, Wed Jul 31, 2013.

SARASOTA -  A new study shows that bottle-nose dolphins right in our own Sarasota Bay call each other by name.

"One of the things we've been learning is that dolphins have means of communicating with one another via their whistles," said Dr. Randall Wells, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

It is research conducted by both Mote Marine Laboratory and the Chicago Zoological Society right here in Sarasota Bay waters, that are home to 5 generations of bottlenose dolphins.

"Our work has shown these animals actually use whistles as names," Dr. Wells said.

He added it is a way to keep in contact with other members of the group especially in the event they get separated or cannot see each other in murky waters.

"What we call it's signature whistle.  It's a concept that was first identified back in 1965 but confirmed by work here in Sarasota Bay," Dr. Wells said.

Dolphins were captured and held in nets for several hours, only able to hear each other.  Then, their whistles were recorded and played back to them for observation.

"They respond much more strongly to the signature whistles of their related kin and to close social associates then they do to others," Dr. Wells said.

Interestingly enough, they also respond to computer generated communications.

"That have all the features that go into making a whistle, but they don't have the voice.  So that's how we got the idea of these actually being abstract names rather then the dolphins responding to a familiar voice," said Dr. Wells.

He adds that it is information that will help us learn more about this incredible species that also is happy to call the Suncoast their home.

"And we can start looking at how human interactions impact their ability to communicate with one another," said Dr. Wells.

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