Dolphin signature whistles

6 March 2012

Researchers from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews (UK) showed that bottlenose dolphins use a “signature whistle” – their own unique calls – to introduce themselves when meeting up with another group.

The study focuses on how dolphins communicate in the wild. The scientists followed a group of bottlenose dolphin off the eastern coast of Scotland with hydrophones, and digital cameras and recorded the sound of the animals.

Another surprising finding is that only one individual of each group gave the signature whistle. Several explanations are suggested by the scientists :
- the group have a leader in charge of the introduction;
- the whistle is more of a ritual and identification is made using echolocation clicks
- the group already know each other.

These findings open up many interesting research opportunities on dolphin society, interaction and communication system.