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Dolphin Mothers Whistle Differently To Their Offspring, Data Shows

By: Jenna Zhang

Most people know that dolphins whistle to communicate. A recent study, however, shows that dolphin mothers whistle differently to their calves, similar to how humans speak differently to their infants or young children.

According to the article "Dolphin moms use baby talk to call to their young, recordings show," researchers recorded the whistles of 19 mother dolphins when they were with adult dolphins, when they were alone, and when they were with their young offspring. All 19 female dolphins changed their tone when they addressed their calves.

Laela Sayigh, a marine biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution marine biologist, says dolphins use whistles to know the location of other dolphins.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that a dolphin mother’s whistle pitch is higher and reaches farther when whistling to their calves.

Obtaining data on dolphins takes a lot of time and effort. At Florida’s Sarasota Bay, scientists have been placing special microphones and recording devices on wild dolphins for over three decades.

The research proposes that young human children show more interest in talking to those with a higher pitch range. Zebra finches also slow down and elevate their pitch when singing to their chicks, which may make it easier for their chicks to learn birdsong. Although scientists are not sure, they believe that humans and other animals talk differently with young offspring to help them learn how to communicate.


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