beluga & dolphin communication

From: Peter M Scheifele (acousticp2@juno.com)
Date: Mon Dec 04 2000 - 22:06:33 EST


Can whales and dolphins communicate with one another? Or would it be
> like they were speaking a foreign language to one another?

Maureen
This question is a good one! Its also a tough one to answer so please
take my answer in good spirit.
Although we have reason to believe that whales and dolphins make
meaningful sound, no one can say with certainty that they actually have a
"language" although in my experience, I feel they do. Communication
implies the purposeful provision of information by a sender to a
receiver, which the receiver then uses to decide how to respond. The
term signal in this case, defines the means that provides this
information. Communication has certainly been demonstrated in many, if
not all, species of whales. Now, as to the matter of dolphins
communicating with belugas, we have seen instances where belugas and
dolphins interact with one another, especially in aquaria. We have even
found phonations made by dolphins or belugas that were also made by the
other species. This has also been found for at least one other species
of whale as well. Some phonations are the same across species but in a
different frequency range or speed. On the other hand, perhaps there are
some phonations that are made by one species and not the other.

All of this is nice and we have even witnessed some of these events (in
aquaria) but the real answer to your question is "I don't know." and I
doubt that anyone does with certainty. What we know is anecdotal and we
just are not able to "ask the animals themselves" yet!
Best
Peter



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