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The Incredible Ways Dolphins
Communicate with Each Other
and with Us
by Aline Alexander Newman“Psst, listen up.”
A female dolphin was being trained to push paddles to get food. Although she couldn´t see her partner, a male dolphin in a separate tank, she kept whistling and chirping to him. Soon he started pushing paddles, too. Did the female “tell” him how to do it?
Squawks, whistles, chirps, and clicks—the racket is earsplitting as groups of bottlenose dolphinszoom around beneath the waves. Scientists have been aware of the dolphins´ noisemaking for years. But are the animals talking to each other? If they are, what are they saying?
Where there are dolphins, there are humans who are curious about them. There are dozens of species of dolphins, and they live in oceans all over the world, as well as in some rivers. They live in groups. The ultimateteam players, some kinds of dolphins work together to herd fish and then take turns eating their catch. They speed through the water side by side, sometimes making sounds as they swim. They zip along without bumping or banging into each other. Scientists believe the only way dolphins could work together so well and in so many ways is if they´re “talking.”
That´s why marine biologistKathleen Dudzinski has been eavesdropping on dolphin “conversations” for ten years. By carefully observing dolphin behavior, she hopes eventually to learn their “language.” That may take a while. Dolphins are mammals, so they have lungs and must breathe air at the water´s surface. But they spend 99 percent of their lives underwater, making them hard to find and study. “ It´s like trying to puttogether a giant jigsaw puzzle when you´ve lost the box lid with the puzzle´s picture on it,” says Dudzinski.
Annual Exam, 2012
Secondary 2nd. Grade
Dudzinski studies wild dolphins around the world. She films them using a custom-made video camera and recording system. Ehen Dudzinski plays back her tapes, she makes notes of what she seesand hears.
Dolphin communication includes many different kinds of signals: touching each other, body position, movement such as leaping and rolling, and sounds. Sometimes signals are used alone, sometimes in combination. For example, making clicking noises toward each other and then rubbing fins might be the dolphin way of saying “hi.”
There is evidence that dolphins call eachother “by name.” Vincent Janik, a zoologist from the United Kingdom, says that each individual dolphin develops a personal whistle. When the water is so murky that they can´t see each other, the dolphins whistle those personal names to stay in touch.
Dudzinski´s biggest discovery was recognizing the differences in communication when dolphins play and fight. It was confusing at firs,because dolphins whistle loudly and bite each other in both situations. But one day after watching some puppies tumbling about, she realized that the playful dolphins usually do the same thing. They romp and roll and rub each other. Dolphins that are fighting don´t do any rubbing, and they tend to get right in each other´s faces.
While Dudzinski and Janik do research in the wild, otherscientists study captive animal. One pair of captive dolphins knows 50 words in sign language. They even understand the difference between “take the Frisbee to the surfboard” and “take the surf- board to the Frisbee.”
Wild dolphins often leap out of the water at the same time. Knowing that, trainers use signals to tell captive dolphins to plan their next move. The animals submerge, “discuss”...