Sunday, May 07, 2006

How similar are we?

Dolphins may call each other names, according to scientists who studied a group of wild bottlenose dolphins for over 30 years.

It has long been suspected that dolphins have a "language" and recognize each other individually their brains are almost as large and complex as those of humans. And according to this article in today's Sunday Times, research has finally shown that they do.

The scientists, who were from St. Andrew's University in Scotland, studied the social interactions of a group of dolphins and recorded the "signature whistles" they made when greeting one another. When the dolphins listened to synthetic recordings resembling the whistles of various dolphins, they reacted strongly to those of their family members and other associates, but did not react to the whistles of dolphins they didn't know.

These findings come on the heels of controversial research published last week suggesting that starling birds may share certain language characteristics with humans too. You can read Carl Zimmer's article on the subject here.


Blogger Roelieboelie said...

Wow, that's pretty amazing! This makes me think of the opening scene of that Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy movie... "So long, so long, and thanks for all the fish!"

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Karen Schrock said...

I had a hard time understanding the significance of this research, because coudln't dolphins just recognize their family members by the quality of their voice, much like we recognize our family members by what they look like and dogs do it by scent? i mean, that doesn't mean it's language, it's just physiological structure.

but i think what these scientists are saying is that it's actually the TUNE that these dolphins are whistling, or the pattern, or whatever you want to call it -- basically, it's WHAT they are saying, not HOW they sound. the dolphins CHOOSE to whistle a certain way (out of many possible variations) and thus brand themselves w/ a signature whistle.

am i understanding that correctly? if so, pretty cool.

2:13 PM  

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