ocean mammals communication

From: mwilliamson (mwilliamson@wheelock.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 07 2002 - 13:57:18 EDT

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                                   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.

                                   good luck,


                                   -----Original Message-----
                                   From: Karyn Friesen [SMTP:Pooh15_@hotmail.com]
                                   Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 5:03 PM
                                   To: gearly@downeast.net; pita@whale.wheelock.edu
                                   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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