Yikes...that is a pretty tall order. There is a LOT of information about
communication in marine animals (particularly whales and dolphins). More
than I can give you in a quick note. One of the best things you can do is
check on the web and for sure take a look at the information on WhaleNet
and the WhaleNet archives.
The reason there is so much information out there, is that this is a
question that people have wondered about for a long time...probably since
we started studying whales and dolphins. Generally, people wonder about
communication in two ways. One way, is "Can we communicate with them?".
This is a very controversial area and you are likely to find a lot of
opinions on this one. The second way is "Do they communicate with each
The second question is less controversial and nearly all scientists agree
that to some extent ...yes they do communicate with each other in some way.
Now that should not be all that surprising as most animals communicate
with each other in some way (even insects...think about ants following each
other to a nest for example). Marine mammals probably communicate with
each other using a variety of signals to all of their senses. For example
in some pinnipeds a sense of smell is very important and mothers canb
identify their pups by using smell. Mother and pup recognize each other
partly by smell and sound (the pup calls and the mother can find it). By
far the most well developed systems, though uses sound. Marine mammals as
a group make a lot of noise and it is felt that some of this is used in
communication. Sounds can be used in may ways, from individual whistles
that botlenosed dolphins can use to identify each other, to humpback whale
"songs" that may be used by male whales to help find mates, to some of the
loudest noises make by mammals (besides heavy metal bands)...noises made by
blue whales that may be used to identify or locate other blue whales.
As far as that first question goes...."Can we communicate with them...or
can they communicate with us?" Well there is a lot of opinion on this one
and some research. I will give you my opinion and you can do some checking
for the rest. It should be no surprise that we can communicate (at least
in some way) with some animals. For example, if my cat is hungry (which is
often) he communicates this to me by standing on my chest. This means
"Hey...wake up I'm hungry and I'll crush your lungs if you do not feed
me"...[he is a big cat].......It gets his point across. Likewise, if you
go to a sea lion or dolphin show you get to see a whole lot of
communication between trainer and mammal. Sometimes it is one way ("Jump
through the hoop"...and the seal jumps) and sometimes it is two way
(trainer..."Jump through the hoop"...seal..."Yeah...Right...you jump
through the hoop...I'm headed back to the bottom of the pool".) So the
fact that there is some level of communication seems like no big deal. The
big question, however is how much communication goes on, and at what level.
There have been researchers studying this for many years and some of what
they have found might surprise you.
From: Karyn Friesen [SMTP:Pooh15_@hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 5:03 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Ocean Mammals
I am doing an assignment for my class and I was wondering if you could
tell me any information you could on ocean mammals communication like
dolphins, whales, ect. This is very important and I would be very greatful
for your help. And could you send the info as soon as possible cause we
don't have very long for this assignment.
Thank you Karyn
-- ``````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````` J. Michael Williamson Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu> Associate Professor-Science Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215 voice: 617.879.2256 fax: 617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073 "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call, Wanted to sail upon your waters, since I was three feet tall" Jimmy Buffett ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' --
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