by Ali Berman
Categories: Animals, Science.

Researchers found that dolphins, known to have sophisticated communication systems, each appear to have their own names. Not Fred or Diane. Instead, whistles that are unique to each individual dolphin.

BBC news reports that researchers looked into a group of bottlenose dolphins, recording their sounds and then playing them back to gauge reactions.

Dr. Vincent Janik, from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said about their findings, “We played signature whistles of animals in the group, we also played other whistles in their repertoire and then signature whistles of different populations – animals they had never seen in their lives.”

When the dolphins heard their own specific whistle, they responded back with the same sound. Dr. Janik continued, “Most of the time they can’t see each other, they can’t use smell underwater, which is a very important sense in mammals for recognition, and they also don’t tend to hang out in one spot, so they don’t have nests or burrows that they return to.”

Not being able to rely on their other senses, sound is vital for them to communicate and locate one another in the water.

The abstract for the study states, “This study provides compelling evidence that a dolphin’s learned identity signal is used as a label when addressing conspecifics. Bottlenose dolphins therefore appear to be unique as nonhuman mammals to use learned signals as individually specific labels for different social companions in their own natural communication system.”

That puts them in the same category as humans and adds a second species to the list of animals who label each other individually.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

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  • Siraganda

    Every animal species has their own language – and if the human being (see scientists) are not able to understand it, this doesn’t mean that they have no language, but that the human being is ignorant!