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WUSF News Staff
Thu February 21, 2013
Sarasota Researchers Lead to Finding that Dolphins Call Each Other by 'Name'
Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 4:27 pm
Science continues to show that what we think makes us human may not be so unique: New research finds that bottlenose dolphins call the "names of loved ones when they become separated," Discovery News reports.
You might be thinking this sounds familiar. Indeed, in 2011, researchers found that sperm whales may give each names, and way back in 2006, researchers found that dolphins named themselves with unique whistles. (Earlier this month, we told you about birds who have awareness of a mate's feeling.)
What this study published in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B found is that dolphins use these names. They are the first animals — other than humans — known to do so.
" 'Animals produced copies when they were separated from a close associate and this supports our belief that dolphins copy another animal's signature whistle when they want to reunite with that specific individual,' lead author Stephanie King of the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit told Discovery News.
"King and her colleagues collected acoustic data from wild bottlenose dolphins around Sarasota Bay, Fla., from 1984 to 2009. The researchers also intensely studied four captive adult male dolphins housed at The Seas Aquarium, also in Florida."
Wired reports that researchers analyzed recordings made by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, which captured pairs of dolphins and held them in separate nets.
"During the captures, the dolphins can't see each other, but can hear each other and continue to communicate," Wired writes. "In their analysis, King and Janik showed that some of the communications are copies of captured compatriots' signature whistles — and, crucially, that the dolphins most likely to make these were mothers and calves or closely allied males."