February 23, 2024


Love it or hate it, but the way humans change language when communicating with their young offspring, often referred to as “baby talk,” has now been documented in bottlenose dolphin mothers as well.

Child-Directed Communication (CDC), also known as Mother Tongue, has a higher pitch and wider range and is thought to facilitate bonding and language learning among children.

Researchers discover wild bottlenose dolphins (Spottail) around Sarasota Bay, FL, changing their signature whistle (their respective “voices”) to a higher frequency and greater range, which is basically a Presenting the CDC.

“There is strong evidence that dolphins are capable of vocal learning, a key aspect of human communication,” said Nicole El Haddad, co-lead author of the journal article. “This study adds to the New evidence of similarities between dolphins and humans. Having said that, I hope this interesting discovery raises public awareness for the conservation of this fascinating species.”

The scientists analyzed records of 19 adult female dolphins from a group that had been studied by various research programs for more than 50 years. A makeshift hydrophone with a suction cup was fitted to the dolphin’s head while it was briefly captured for a health assessment.

Researchers have long been trying to find a way to decipher the complex language and communication of dolphins. Recordings from this study revealed how much the signature whistle changes when the mother is around the calf.

“This paper could serve as a springboard to inspire other scientists to focus on child-led communication in other species,” El Haddad said. “It will be interesting to compare the vocalizations of different marine mammal mothers in the presence of their offspring. .”

Scientists know very little about CDCs in other species. Adult male zebra finch (dripping bug) adjust their song when young monkeys are nearby, while squirrel monkeys (Samir sp.) and rhesus monkeys (mulatto macaque), altering their vocalizations when communicating with younger members of their kind. Of course, it’s much more subtle than the broad range humans use when talking to children.

“It’s really exciting to find evidence of CDC in another mammalian species, even if we can’t necessarily talk about its function in dolphins,” said co-lead author of the journal article, a biological scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Scientist Laela Sayigh said. . “The fact that dolphins use their mother tongue is a good example of what we call convergent evolution.”

Convergent evolution, or how different species that spread across geographic regions adopt or retain similar traits, is a fascinating field of study for biologists.

Frants Havmand Jensen, a senior scientist at Aarhus University’s Department of Ecological Sciences, said the study “reveals an interesting case of convergent evolution, where female bottlenose dolphins change individuals in the presence of their young.” vocalizations, reflecting the vocal changes observed in human mother tongues”, Denmark, and a visiting researcher at WHOI.

“Our findings also have the potential to strengthen population surveillance efforts,” Jensen added. “We are developing tools to listen to the unique whistles of individual animals. If we can reliably detect subtle changes in the signature whistle when pups emerge, then we can use this to learn about the reproductive success and general health of wild dolphins.” situation.”

Listen to an example of one of the iconic whistles recorded below, slowed down eight times to allow these high frequency sounds to be heard by the human ear.

dolphin baby language

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution