whale communications

From: Orca Network (howard@orcanetwork.org)
Date: Thu May 22 2003 - 19:20:52 EDT

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    hey im doin a school project and my topic is why do whales communicate. I
    hope u can find answers for me so i can help my classmates understand my
    topic and help me learn more about whale communications. Thank you.

    That's a tall order. Whale communications include every species of
    cetacean, from the smallest porpoise to the thunderous blue whale. Most of
    the scientific literature on whale communication describes the physical
    properties of the vocalizations, i.e., the waveform, frequency and volume,
    or the social context, i.e., the pod-specific dialects of orca communities.
    The usual answers given to the question of why they communicate involve
    cooperative feeding or coordinating behavior in general. For orcas, many
    scientists believe certain calls are used to identify individuals' family
    groups, or matrilines. Dolphins are believed to use "signature whistles"
    that identify each individual by sound, so that every member of the group
    has a sort of picture in sound of the whereabouts of each individual at all
    times, and possibly other information as well, such as their activities,
    the presence of food, etc. Some have theorized that dolphins send a kind of
    holographic image of their surroundings or their thoughts to one another.

    These are all preliminary guesses, which are helpful to guide further
    thinking. While they are probably accurate as far as they go, I would say
    that we have only begun to seriously investigate cetacean vocalizations.
    They are a window into the knowledge and thought processes of animals that
    have been evolving their mental capabilities and social systems for tens of
    millions of years, using brains many times the size of human brains. We
    would be boasting to say we understand how they use their ability to
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    Howard Garrett
    Orca Network
    Greenbank WA
    (360) 678-3451

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