BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



The BBC's David Concar
"It is because dolphins like imitating each other"
 real 56k

Peter Tyack, US Oceanographic Institute
"Each dolphin learns to develop an individually distinctive call"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Dolphins whistle 'hello'
Dolphin (BBC)
Dolphins form strong, lasting bond with each other
By BBC News Online's Anne Lavery

Wild dolphins greet each of their pals using individual whistle signatures.

Until now this sort of behaviour has only been found in birds and humans.

Previous research with captive dolphins shows that each one has a unique whistle and can mimic another dolphin's whistle perfectly after hearing it just once.

Biologist Dr Vincent Janik at the University of St Andrews in Scotland decided to investigate how bottle nose dolphins interact in the wild.

He recorded nearly two thousand whistles from dolphin colonies off the Scottish coast.

So as not to disturb the dolphins with noisy boats, he used six underwater microphones and a computer-based method for locating individual vocalists. Human listeners then identified matching whistles.

First step to language

Dr Janik concluded that the dolphins were responding to each other by mimicking an individual's call back. Such interactions with learned signals are thought to be a first step toward the evolution of real language.

Communication between dolphins seems to be quite sophisticated yet no one really knows what they say to each other.

In his report published in the journal Science Janik said that the dolphin's greetings might not necessarily be a simple friendly "hello"; they could equally be an aggressive warning.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

21 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Baby babble 'key to language'
22 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Whales change their tune
06 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Mammal cam reveals diving secrets
26 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Chimps' language skills in doubt
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories