The human race became a little humbler recently when it was discovered by a team of biologists that dolphins, much like people, have unique signatures they use to identify themselves and each other. But instead of individual words, dolphins whistle at specific frequencies. Lead author Stephanie King of the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit said: “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.”
What’s the Big Idea?
While scientists are hesitant to use the word “language” for how dolphins communicate with each other—the “l” word has long separated human from animal kingdoms—it is clear that dolphins have a sophisticated method of communication. “The researchers said dolphins copy the signature whistles of loved ones, such as a mother or close male buddy, when the two are apart. These ‘names’ were never emitted in aggressive or antagonistic situations and were only directed toward loved ones.” Whether it is called language or not, dolphins’ ability to learn new signals and refer to objects is a skill inherent in human language.