Oz scientists unravel dolphin “speech”

December 19th, 2007 - 4:01 pm ICT by admin  

London, December 19 (ANI): Australian researchers claim that they have achieved the success in unravelling the meaning of squeaks and whistles that make up dolphin “speech”.

Dr Liz Hawkins, a biologist from the whale research centre at Southern Cross University, says that dolphins language shows that the animals are more similar to humans than previously thought.

She and her colleagues listened to the chatter of wild bottlenose dolphins off the western coast of Australia for three years, and identified around 200 different whistles that the creature makes to communicate. The researchers even linked their language to some specific behaviours.

“This communication is highly complex, and it is contextual, so in a sense it could be termed a language,” the Scotsman quoted Dr. Hawkins as saying.

Scientists are well aware of the fact that dolphins use “signature” whistles to identify themselves to others. They, however, have been struggling to understand the meaning of other whistles that dolphins make.

During the study, Dr Hawkins recorded 1,647 whistles from 51 different groups of dolphins living in Byron Bay, New South Wales. She then grouped all the whistles into five tonal classes.

The study showed that those groups, and even individual whistles, clearly went with different behaviours.

Dr Melinda Rekdahl, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, said that it was too early to say whether whistles might mean something specific.

She, however, added: “It is possible. Dolphin communication is much more complicated than we thought.”

The scientists believe that the study, presented at a meeting of the Society for Marine Mammalogy in Cape Town, will lead to a reassessment of the social complexity of dolphins, and raise moral questions over how those kept in captivity should be treated. (ANI)

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