how whales communicate

From: Greg Early (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2005 - 13:06:22 EST

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    Good question - and one that has been around almost as
    long as there have been people and whales.

    I'm not exaggerating all that much here -
    archaeologists have found ancient greek coins with a
    picture of a boy on a dolphin that represented a
    popular story of the day about how dolphins saved a
    boy from drowning. Makes you think they wondered
    about how the dolphins knew that the boy needed help -
    or how the boy communicated what he needed to the

    Yes there are many stories about dolphins and whales
    approaching boats and people. Curiosity probably is
    part of it. Whale watchers in this area (Cape Cod)
    have often commented on how some whales that are known
    individuals seem to be particularly curious and
    approach boats more than others (usually young
    whales). Some folks think they approach certain boats
    more than others, but I'm not sure how much of that is
    exaggeration by the people running the boats.

    So a whale may be curious, or it may be a case of
    mistaken identity, as when a whale might mistake the
    hull of a boat for the side of another whale. There
    are reports that some small sail boats have been
    struck by sperm whales at sea, that mistake them for
    other whales. Unfortunately, this is something the
    whales know, but we do not.

    It is not all that unusual for animals to communicate
    with humans on a regular basis however. One reason
    people and dogs get along as well as they do, is that
    they tend to be aware of each others body language and
    can understand each other pretty well.

    For example, if you speak in a high squeaky voice to a
    dog it means (to the dog) you are excited and happy.
    I don't know about you , but if I'm in a bad mood I'm
    generally not speaking in a high squeaky voice. So
    when I'm happy and acting like a goof - my dog gets
    happy and acts like a goof. That is also why dogs
    tend to like (well at least get excited around) people
    with high voices (kids and women).

    Whales and dolphins do not use sounds in quite the
    same way so I would think it unlikely that a large
    whale would have the same sort of general reaction to
    people's voices. We know little of the "body
    language" of most whales, but what we do know makes
    people think that it is pretty different.

    We can still get a point across to some marine
    mammals, but it generally requires some work on both
    parts (watch a sea lion show to see more about how
    that works).

    good luck with your report,


    --- Holly Jamieson
    <> wrote:

    > Hello,
    > My name is Holly and I'm doing a project on whale,
    > although not just
    > whales communicate with humans and vise
    > versa.
    > I have heard many stories about whales going to
    > close to boats as a
    > matter of curiosity, for example Luna the separated
    > whale who has gotten
    > so used to humans they wonder if she will remember
    > her pod. Why is it
    > exactly that whales do this? Is it just a matter of
    > curiosity? I have
    > heard that whales are attracted by the sound of kids
    > voices and women's
    > voices, likewise why is this?
    > Thank you for answering my questions:-)
    > -Holly

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