Ethan A. Huff
August 1, 2013
The dolphin is a fascinating marine mammal species with amazing cognitive and intellectual capacities that science has shown far exceed those of almost all other non-human mammals. And a recent study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), adds to the mystery and wonder surrounding dolphins, having found that the bottlenose variety in particular is capable of communicating with other dolphins by specifically calling them by name.
Through a series of learned signals, dolphins are apparently able to communicate with each other in a more advanced way that many scientists previously believed was only possible between humans. According to new research out of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, dolphins possess not only general signaling abilities, which allow them to find food or warn other dolphins about danger, but they also have the capacity to come up with distinct names for one another.
“Bottlenose dolphins develop their own unique identity signal,” explains the study’s abstract. “This whistle encodes individual identity independently of voice features. The copying of signature whistles may therefore allow animals to label or address one another.”
Like humans, dolphins are able to learn and identify copies of their own unique signature whistles — for humans, this would simply be one’s spoken name — as well as learn how to communicate the unique signature whistles of other dolphins. In essence, this unique ability allows dolphins to socialize with one another in a way that most other mammals besides humans appear unable to do.
“This study provides compelling evidence that a dolphin’s learned identity signal is used as a label when addressing conspecifics,” adds the report. “Bottlenose dolphins therefore appear to be unique as nonhuman mammals to use learned signals as individually specific labels for different social companions in their own natural communication system.”
You can view the full study abstract here:
Dolphins also capable of forming special friend circles, planning ahead to perform novel tasks
Naturally, having this special communication faculty at their disposal allows dolphins to perform other amazing feats such as forming special circles of friends — or as humans might call them, cliques. As we reported back in 2012, a study out of Georgetown University found that dolphins are capable of forming elite social groups at the exclusion of other dolphins, which is somewhat unusual in the animal world.
This could be due to the fact that, like humans, dolphins have fairly large brains that take up about five percent of their overall body weight. Having a larger brain, it is hypothesized by some, could explain why dolphins are also able to learn human hand gestures, for instance, and plan ahead. Another study out of the University of Hawaii found that dolphins are capable of planning ahead and performing novel activities with one another.
“There is still much to learn about these flexible problem-solvers,” explains a piece on dolphins published in BBC Wildlife Magazine. “[B]ut from the evidence so far, it seems that dolphins do indeed deserve their reputation for being highly intelligent.”
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This article was posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 1:50 am