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Dolphin Mothers Also Use Baby Talk

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

By: Selena Sun

Have you ever noticed how a mother talks to her infant differently than when she speaks with older people? This way of speaking is called “baby talk.” Apparently, human mothers aren’t the only ones who do this. In fact, dolphin mothers do the exact same with their young.

Dolphin mothers also use a type of high-pitched baby talk. For example, female bottlenose dolphins change their tone to a higher pitch when talking to their calves. This phenomenon was seen when researchers recorded the signature whistles of 19 mother dolphins in Florida when accompanied by their young offspring and when swimming alone or with other adults.

A dolphin has its own noise. That very noise is its name. “They use these whistles to keep track of each other. They’re periodically saying, ‘I’m here, I’m here’,” said study co-author Laela Sayigh, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution marine biologist in Massachusetts.

When a calf's mother calls a calf's name, its pitch is slightly higher, so the calf doesn’t get confused about whether another dolphin is communicating with a different dolphin about them or whether their mother is calling them.


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