Dolphins have regional accents influenced by where they live, study finds

Dolphins also have regional accents! Their signature whistles are influenced by where they live, study finds

  • Bottlenose dolphins have ‘signature whistles’ that they use to identify each other
  • Scientists found that the acoustic characteristics of the whistles differ depending on their habitat
  • The Italian team analyzed 188 hours of registered dolphin whistles
  • They found that land features, such as seagrass, influenced sound the most

Dolphins’ distinctive whistles are influenced by where they live — just like regional accents in humans, a new study has found.

Bottlenose dolphins have distinctive whistles that they use to identify each other. These sounds are unique to each animal.

However, the new study found that the acoustic characteristics of each dolphin’s whistles are influenced by the local habitat and community.

The team says the local ocean environment — such as areas of seagrass or muddy seabeds — played a much bigger role in these whistles than genetics.

Dolphins have ‘signature whistles’ that they use to identify each other, and the sound is influenced by their local habitat and community

Map of the six study places in the Mediterranean: PC (Port Cros);  Al (Alghero);  FI (OstiaFiumicino);  LA (Lampedusa);  GC (Gulf of Corinth);  CL (Cres and Loshni)

Map of the six study places in the Mediterranean: PC (Port Cros); Al (Alghero); FI (OstiaFiumicino); LA (Lampedusa); GC (Gulf of Corinth); CL (Cres and Loshni)

Spectrograms, or images of sounds, showing the frequency modulation patterns of two signature whistles (AL18 and AL20)

Spectrograms, or images of sounds, showing the frequency modulation patterns of two signature whistles (AL18 and AL20)

HOW DO DOLPHINS ID EACH OTHER?

Each bottlenose dolphin has its own whistle – a high-pitched, loud beep – that lets the other dolphins know they are present.

Dolphins living in the same groups can learn and copy the unusual sounds.

A team from the University of Sassari in Italy mapped variations in acoustic characteristics, such as duration and changes in pitch.

They found that land features, such as seagrass, influenced the sounds they most adopted.

It was already known that different groups of dolphins tend to develop different styles of signature whistles that they use as a name, but the factors that influenced them have been a mystery.

Gabriella La Manna and her team at the University of Sassari in Italy studied the whistling habits of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in six geographically distinct populations in the Mediterranean.

The sites include Port Cros in the French Riviera, Alghero in the Sardinian Sea and Ostia-Fiumicino in the Tyrrhenian Sea – all in the western Mediterranean.

They also looked at the eastern sites of Cres-Losinj in the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea, and a southern population at Lampedusa in the Strait of Sicily.

In total, they analyzed 188 hours of recorded dolphin chatter, mapping variations in acoustic characteristics, such as duration and changes in pitch, and ultimately identified 168 signature whistles.

They concluded that the local ocean environment and population size had the greatest effect on the tones.

Typical whistles in seagrass areas, such as Lampedusa and Port Cros, were higher and shorter in length compared to when the seabed was muddy.

In addition, among small populations, such as in the Gulf of Corinth, the identifying calls had more pitch changes than in larger populations.

There is some established genetic variation between the eastern and western dolphin populations, but the researchers found that this did not affect whistles.

La Manna’s findings suggest bottlenose dolphins develop distinctive whistles best suited to their local habitat; the ‘acoustic adaptation hypothesis’.

Speaking to MailOnline, La Manna said: ‘Even if the bottlenose dolphin is one of the most studied cetacean species, many aspects of their ecology and behavior are still unknown.

“Given how quickly human activities are changing the oceans, it is important to understand the environmental and social-behavioral factors that allow animals to adapt to their environment.

‘I want people to think about the importance of the acoustic environment in which dolphins live for the development and maintenance of their communication.

“Human activities, such as commercial shipping and nautical traffic, can seriously affect this fundamental aspect of dolphins’ lives.”

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Pee friends! Dolphins Can Recognize Their Friends By Tasting Their URINE, Study Shows

Similar to how dogs smell urine from other dogs, dolphins can recognize each other by tasting their urine, a new study reveals.

In experiments, dolphins showed signs of recognition when tasting the urine of another dolphin they had already met.

Dolphins don’t have olfactory bulbs, so they have to taste what other dolphins have been in the area, researchers say.

It is thought that the molecules known as lipids present in the urine allow dolphins to identify the individual chemical signatures of their friends.

Dolphins use taste and signature whistles to identify each other, according to the new study.  This allows them to compensate for a lack of scent (dolphins do not have olfactory bulbs)

Dolphins use taste and signature whistles to identify each other, according to the new study. This allows them to compensate for a lack of scent (dolphins do not have olfactory bulbs)

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