A team from the University of North Carolina and Mote Marine Lab is back in Sarasota Bay continuing a three-year study of the bottlenose dolphins that call the area home. They really want to know if the dolphins actually do call the area something like our word for home. They’ve already proven the animals recognize their own names – a signature whistle unique to each dolphin.
Biology Layla Sighig says the study is a small piece in understanding how dolphins talk with one another and what it means.
“The fact that we found that they do use these arbitrary symbols to represent other animals implies that they have perhaps mental images of these animals or in some way or form concepts of these other animals.”
Sighig used natural recordings of signal whistles from other familiar dolphins to measure the responses. And to ensure the dolphins were not just responding to a known voice, they used computer-generated signals. In both instances, the dolphins turned around as if to ask, "Are you talking to me?"
A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina and Mote Marine lab are conducting experiments with dolphins in Sarasota Bay this month. They’ll spend about two weeks studying if the dolphins respond to signals besides their names. Their names are whistles unique to each animal. Researcher Layla SEYE-ig has been working with this pod for 20 years.
“My overall interest is really trying to understand the natural communicational system of dolphins. There could be relevance in terms of understand more about human language I suppose if we do find more parallels with our own language system in dolphins it might help to understand evolutionary forces that have driven the development of these types of communication systems in different animals.”
They plan to play random recorded signals and monitor the dolphins' reactions. SEYE-ig says the research could give scientists clues if dolphins relay messages of stress, unhappiness or have conversations. But that type of information could require several more years of study.
Thursday, 08 June 2006 01:00
Dolphin SpeechWritten by Amy Tardif